9-year-old Matthew was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis before he was born. He spends a lot of time in the hospital and working on keeping his lungs healthy. Matthew’s interest in the work of SWAT teams first began when he started watching SWAT team videos on YouTube, and he admired their role in public safety and helping others. SWAT Team officers quickly became Matthew’s heroes, so when asked what his wish was, he immediately shared that he wished to be a member of the SWAT Team.
Working together with the team at Richmond Police Department, planning was quickly underway to grant a spectacular wish for Matthew, including a surprise wish reveal at Walk For Wishes featuring the entire SWAT team.
“We were humbled when we found out about Matthew's wish,” shared Lt. McQuail, commander of the Richmond Police SWAT Team. “It was humbling that he wanted to do something that had to do with public service, safety and helping people.”
The day of Walk For Wishes, Matthew’s family couldn’t wait for him to find out his wish to be a member of the SWAT Team would be granted the following day. Matthew had a look of complete surprise and admiration as the SWAT Team joined him on stage and held up a sign that said, “We are granting Matthew’s wish!” That night, Matthew could barely sleep in anticipation for what would happen the next day.
The next morning, Matthew and his family were picked up by a police escort and taken to the training academy. Several hundred supporters, officers and community members had gathered to be a part of the ceremony. Matthew, wearing a custom-made SWAT uniform and led in by a man playing bagpipes, beamed with pride as he was officially sworn in as the newest member of the SWAT Team.
After the ceremony, Matthew’s training began immediately. He learned about night vision, working with K9 officers, clearing rooms, practiced using bomb robots and even learned how to breach doors with equipment made just for him. The team welcomed him with open arms, and with each exercise, he felt more confident in his SWAT skills. Each member of the team constantly checked in on Matthew, making sure he was hydrated, comfortable, and even let him rest when necessary by giving him piggyback rides.
After his training was complete, Matthew was briefed on a hostage rescue mission by the Chief of Police. Two stuffed bears had been taken hostage, and it was Matthew’s job to ensure they were rescued and the bad guys were captured. He used each of the skills he learned throughout the day to safely lead and carry out the mission with the rest of the team by his side.
“Being on the SWAT team requires a lot of mental preparation - we realize a lot of our outcomes are based on our will and determination,” said Lt. McQuail. “We were hoping to instill that in Matthew. We never give up no matter what. We were hoping to encourage him and give him that strength.”
Matthew’s family says that the wish brought their son strength and confidence that he didn’t have before, which will be valuable in facing any challenges that may lie ahead.
“I actually used to think that the wish day happened and then you are done, but we are still experiencing it,” shared Matthew’s dad. “Matthew has been a different kid since he got back from his wish. His confidence has grown and that is something that would not have happened without his wish. His wish changed him...it really did,” added Matthew’s mom.
Matthew loves talking about memories from his wish and often shares with others how much it means to him to be an official SWAT Team member. He takes his new role seriously, and frequently puts on his uniform and assures his family he’s there to protect them. Most importantly, he knows he’s very much still a part of the team, and thoughts of joining the Richmond Police SWAT Team as an adult help propel him forward. Matthew’s wish will not soon be forgotten by the community it brought together, either.
“Officers were saying that this is something they will remember for the rest of their lives,” shared Lt. McQuail. “This is something that will affect us forever and will probably be one of our greatest memories in the police department.”
“After my wish, I feel safe and loved more. I went into the academy with one little brother and one big sister, and when I left I had 24 new big brothers,” Matthew said. “What Make-A-Wish does...for me, I think is out of this world.”