matthew smiling after donating make-a-wish to his doctor's research

Matthew’s Wish to Pay It Forward

Matthew used his Make-A-Wish grant to help other kids beat cancer.

A love of science. A desire to help others. The reasons we choose healthcare as a profession are as varied as the patients we treat.

For Matthew Gould, his dream to pursue medicine someday was about paying it forward. Matthew knew the value of an accurate diagnosis. He had seen firsthand the real-life impact of medical research. And he benefited from the persistence of a care team that would not settle until they found the right treatment approach. 

Persistence pays off
In 2016, at age 13, Matthew was diagnosed with advanced pediatric T-Cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. Matthew’s oncology and hematology team at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta tried multiple chemotherapy regimens and radiation to determine which treatment would best fight his disease. 

When those first-line therapies proved unsuccessful, doctors turned to blood and marrow transplant (BMT), also referred to as bone marrow transplant. The Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center has some of the largest volumes and best outcomes for BMTs in the country, performing more than 90 of these procedures in one year.

One of the biggest challenges of BMT can be finding a marrow donor who is a suitable match. Fortunately, Matthew’s match was easy to find: It was his older brother, DJ.

“It was a relief because the doctors weren’t sure there would be a match,” said Matthew.

Matthew had a promising initial response to transplant and returned home hopeful. However, in February 2019, Matthew’s leukemia came back. In June of that year, he underwent his second BMT. This time, it seemed to be a success. But the leukemia returned for a third time. And in the summer of 2021, Matthew passed away. 

A wish granted
Matthew had big dreams of one day working in a forensics lab in the healthcare industry, helping identify new treatments to heal patients like him. In May 2019, as part of the Make-A-Wish Georgia program, he got a glimpse of what this dream job might be like. 

Matthew joined his own doctor, Ryan Summers, MD, in the forensics lab, where Dr. Summers demonstrated how he analyzed Matthew’s leukemia cells, and Matthew got his very own monogrammed lab coat. At the end of the day, Matthew presented Dr. Summers with a gift as well: his $5,000 Make-A-Wish check, to be used toward pediatric cancer research.

"I decided if I could somehow help other people, that would be a wish for me, that would make me happy," said Matthew.

Matthew’s wish was granted, and his hope lives on through the advanced research currently under way as part of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center Precision Medicine Program.

Thanks to Matthew’s gift—and yours— we are one step closer to a cancer-free tomorrow. No matter how big or small, every donation matters. Your contribution allows us to continue our research and knowledge sharing with leading healthcare partners across the country, resulting in new and better treatments for every young patient who depends on us for care. 

Help Us Grant More Wishes

With your support, we can continue providing kids hope for a healthier tomorrow.

Pediatric cancer patient ringing the bell

See What the Future Holds

We’re transforming pediatric cancer care for the better.

Read more