In a joint effort, University of Rhode Island sophomore guard E.C. Matthews and men’s ice hockey assistant coach Benjamin Upham worked together to help a local child get involved with some of his favorite sports on campus.
Upham became involved with the child through his work with the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center, a Warwick, Rhode Island-based group that was “born out of a necessity and belief that people with disabilities should be allowed full citizenship within their own communities,” per the organization’s website. After receiving an e-mail from the group looking for Personal Assistance Services and Supports (PASS) workers a few years ago, he applied and has been helping out through his kinesiology major ever since.
The two connected at a small hangout where Upham told Matthews about his 11-year-old friend, who remained anonymous for privacy, how excited he was for the basketball season and how much he looked up to Matthews and the rest of the players on the team.
“I met him out and about, just being around campus and being a fellow student,” Upham said. “I just kind of told him a story and how I work with this kid. To him, E.C. Matthews is bigger than the world, it’s like meeting a pro to him.”
Having been a kid that really looked up to his favorite athletes, Matthews said the opportunity was a great chance for him to help out and give back. Now that he has both his and Upham’s number, Matthews said that anytime their friend wants to hang out or just talk, he is available and willing to do so.
During their first encounter, he signed a shirt and a ball and provided a few pointers to his new companion before taking a picture to commemorate the moment.
“You know, I never want to turn down something like that,” Matthews said. “I like helping people out, so I just met him one day in study hall, and I got to sign his shirt and a ball, and I just gave him a few pointers. I took a couple of pictures and I think I have his number now, so whenever he wants to talk, I can talk to him.”
Now that the basketball program has grown so significantly at the URI, Upham said he really appreciates how Matthews handles himself and how willing he is to help with the school and the community. After meeting spending time with Upham and his friend, he said that he wanted to stay in touch and help with anything he needed.
“I just wanted people to realize how humble he is and how much he is willing to do for the school and the university,” Upham said. “Really, that’s kind of the face you want for such a big sports team for URI.”
With the first game of the season tomorrow, Matthews said that he can hopefully get his friend out to the game where he can watch the team play and hopefully hangout more.
“I actually want him to come out to our first game and meet everybody because he only met me and Has [sophomore center Hassan Martin] that day,” Matthews said. “I want him to meet the whole team and probably get a big picture with everybody.”
The Rams will begin the season tomorrow night at the Thomas M. Ryan Center against Pace University at 7 p.m.