“I have faith that I will always keep fighting. But if I fight this alone, I will fail. But if you will walk behind, I have faith that I’ll never surrender.” - Matt Rupel to a room of FA supporters at his fundraiser in 2011.
Matt Rupel was an expert at creating community. He was soft-spoken at times but his wit, self-deprecation, and confidence are what drew people in; and then they were hooked, part of the FAITH Team, the Rupeloton, or Matt’s Ohana and thus supporters for the FA community.
For me, it was his determination that was so intriguing. Matt loved to travel, and he loved journalism. One Summer while he was attending Santa Clara University, he did an internship for a company that was working on a news app. They were located in New York City.
Matt probably never knew that this relocation to NYC might impact me but at that time I was struggling with my diagnosis and trying to figure out what to do with my future. Hearing of Matt’s internship and his adventure helped me to realize that I didn’t need to lower my expectations for myself because of FA.
In 2006, the Rupels raised $30,000 with their signature FAITH fundraising event. By 2015, the event had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for FA Research.
The “Rupeloton” has been participating in rideATAXIA since our ride from Sacramento to Las Vegas in 2008. The Rupels and all their friends show up in numbers for the NorCal ride every year, and they always find themselves among the top 3 fundraising teams with several years in the #1 spot. This year their team name is Matt’s Ohana. Ohana is family in Hawaiian, and it is for relatives and non-relatives who love each other and share a common bond.
In 2009, the rideATAXIA Team rode from Portland to Seattle. During that ride, I witnessed the true strength, determination, and grit that was Matt Rupel. He rode a trike, and for part of the time, it was tethered to his Dad's bike - pushing through physical limitations amidst the nasty rain and cold elements. It was a tough ride but with the help of his Dad, Matt worked hard to cover the ground.
This photo is at the end of the 2009 ride, coming into the finish - Matt is riding just over my shoulder. I'm eager to get to the ultimate finish line on FA and I imagine Matt will be riding just over my shoulder again when we do.
I learned a lot from Matt about building community and about what to expect from myself. He will not be forgotten.
rideATAXIA NorCal 2018 is dedicated to Matt Rupel.
Each person who raises $750 or more will receive a rideATAXIA jersey and on the inside of the collar is a memorial:
And everyone at the event will have the opportunity to have Matt with them for the day with this sticker:
This is the 1-up Mushroom from Nintendo Mario Brothers that gives a player an extra life. Matt had this symbol tattooed on his arm not only to symbolize his desire to have a new life but also as a reassurance of a different life waiting while acknowledging the freedom one had known there was another life to come.