Interview: Matt Ferguson, 2012 HALO Award Winner
I talked to Matt Ferguson, one of the 2012 TeenNick HALO Award honorees. He started Matt's Chemo Bags after his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Watch this clip to see how Matt reacted when he met Emma Stone:
When you decided to start Matt's Chemo Bags, what were the first steps you took?
Well I was kind of already involved in something similar. From the fifth grade, I was making tie blankets with a bunch of elementary school classes for retirement homes, and so I did that for probably five or six years, until my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then I started making those tie blankets for oncology clinics.
When my mom first started visiting the oncology clinic, I started delivering blankets, and it evolved into something completely out of my hands. It's so big, it's crazy. I got the idea for the bags from my aunt, who had given a bag to my mom for Christmas that was full of like, pretty much the same things that I put in my bags. I thought it was just so neat how my mom took that bag with her everywhere she went. It was like Mary Poppins' bag in there -- she was pulling out all sorts of fun stuff, and it seemed like it was just endless.
A big bag of useful stuff!
Yeah, there was a tie blanket in there, a small lap pillow, Sudoku, candy, everything. The idea of the bag is to have all these things that kinda keep one comfortable while they're away from home, and bringing that home aspect with them. When I visited the oncology clinics, I saw that a lot of the ladies didn't have what my mom had with that bag. They just came in with like a book and a blanket or something, and that's it. They were all alone, and I wanted to give what my mom had to everybody.
That's so cool. What has been your biggest challenge so far with this project?
The most challenging part is getting it spread out, getting it to other states.
And how do you do that?
It's mostly just through school, with the OASC and 4H and stuff like that. It's just word of mouth. I would deliver the bags, and every bag has a little pamphlet on my story and what I want them to get out of the bag. A lot of times, people will contact me asking how they can help, and they're involved with so-and-so organization, and they can do something for the bags... and that's usually fantastic. Like, I've had people from quilting clubs and girl scout troops contact me, and they've made like 40 or 50 pillows and really nice quilts.
I love that you're getting other community groups involved in it, too.
I've kind of evolved from just some kid making blankets in a basement for oncology clinics to something that has the entire community involved. So many different members of the community come together for this common purpose, because so many people have been affected by breast cancer, and cancer in general.
Do you have any one single moment from this project that you're really proud of?
I receive a lot of thank you letters, I try to take the time and read every single one, and reply to the emails. I received a letter from the oncology clinic, from a lady's daughter, and the letter pretty much said that the daughter was upset that her mom couldn't have written the letter. She said when her mom received the blanket, it was the first time she smiled in months. She wore the blanket with her everywhere she went, she always had it around her, and I later heard from the oncology clinic that the lady died in the blanket that I gave her. It's that stuff that lets me know that I'm doing the right thing.
I think a lot of people are interested in getting more involved in their communities, but they don't know where to start. What advice would you give someone in that situation?
One thing I say when I speak to schools is that it doesn't matter what you're given in life, what walk of life you're from... if you have time, you can give back to your community. I strongly believe in that. You don't have to have money or anything like that. It can be as extreme as starting your own nonprofit, or just going and helping at a soup kitchen in your community. If you have a passion for something, you've got to find how your passion can help people.
Ooh, I love that! This is a more personal question, and you don't have to answer it if you don't want to. After everything you've been through, what advice would you give a teenager who just found out that their mom or someone they love has cancer?
It's actually really hard, because everybody takes it a different way. I've spoken to a few kids who went through what I went through. I'm one of those people that tries to stay strong for the people around me. I bottle up my emotions. I would say to channel what they feel and make good out of it. Take your family's adversity and make it into an opportunity to do something awesome. Whether it's helping out your mom at home, or volunteering to help out at a clinic... just don't turn it into something bad. Don't channel your anger into doing something bad. That's not the right way to handle it. In the end, it just makes it worse.
That's a great answerSo let's talk about your HALO hit. How did that go? How did Nick Cannon surprise you?
It was actually really cool. We were all sitting around making bags and blankets, and Nick was filming, but I thought it was just a normal thing. Then... [WATCH THE HALO AWARDS on Nov. 19th FOR DETAILS!!]
What was it like meeting Emma Stone?
At first I didn't recognize her because of the blond hair, but then she started talking and I could tell it was her by her mannerisms and stuff. She's exactly the same in movies as she is out of movies. She's, like, a really funny, goofy person. She's a lot of fun to talk to. It was awesome.
Did anything about her surprise you?
It surprised me how down-to-earth and cool she was. Also, she's really short! I honestly thought she'd be taller.
What is one thing you'd like everyone who reads this interview to do?
Find your passion and use it to your advantage. Help people through your passion.
Are you on Twitter?
Yes! I'm @matthew_fergie.
Thank you so much for talking to me! And please livetweet the show with us when it airs on Nick@Nite!
Yeah, that'll be really cool. Thanks for interviewing me!
For more about how Matt Ferguson Helps And Leads Others, don't miss the TeenNick HALO Awards on Monday, November 19th at 8pm et on Nick@Nite!