By Emmaline Jurgena
For The Catholic Messenger
Matt Grillot was only 6 years old when he fell from a welded structure and injured his spinal cord, rendering him a quadriplegic. Now, at age 37, he finds himself turning to his community for support as he raises money for a vehicle that will meet his transportation needs.
Faith and community have always played roles in Grillot’s life, and he credits his family as key to managing his limited mobility. Grillot says that his parents, Ed and Chris, “always expected the same things out of me as my two younger brothers” growing up.
While Grillot feels that his disability has shaped his faith “to a certain extent,” he says that he “always had a tendency towards faith, religion [and] spiritual things.” Certain experiences furthered his belief in God, such as surviving a perforated stress ulcer in his stomach in 1985, which he calls “a miracle.”
Grillot’s faith journey took a turn after he attended his first Christian Experience Weekend (CEW) in 2005. Before he participated in CEW, Grillot had been feeling depressed. After the weekend, he found that his faith had been bolstered.
“It led to me asking questions like, ‘What is God asking me to do in life, and what are my gifts, and how can I serve the Church?’ It led to a process of self-examination about what I was called to in life,” Grillot said.
Addressing these questions led, in part, to Grillot entering Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., in 2008. He graduated in 2010 with a B.A. in philosophy, and returned to DeWitt, quickly becoming re-involved with St. Joseph Parish, which he had begun attending in 2003. Grillot is currently a lector, Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus Council and an active supporter of CEW.
“Matt’s been very faithful, very involved [at St. Joseph’s]. He’s got a deep faith and he’s always willing to jump in and help wherever he can,” said Father Paul Connolly, pastor of St. Joseph Parish.
Grillot uses a power wheelchair and requires a wheelchair-accessible vehicle to get around. He drove a van that he customized with modified hand controls, but it was totaled in an accident in 2010. Since then, Grillot has been searching for ways to raise money for a suitable replacement vehicle.
A new van would benefit Grillot by improving his ability to be involved in his community, providing more opportunity to see family and friends, and helping him pursue employment outside of his home, he said. At present, Grillot works from home for a company called National Telecommunications Institute.
“Telecommuting from home has its advantages; you don’t have to worry about a formal dress code or the weather … you just have to fire up your computer and make sure you have an Internet connection. But it has it downsides; you don’t have any direct, in-person contact with people,” Grillot said.
After assessing his available funds, Grillot determined that he was $15,000 short of what he needed for a new vehicle. A friend suggested that he create a profile on a “crowdsourcing” website, allowing him to reach out to supporters online. Grillot also received several grants and is working with a fundraising committee that has distributed material to various DeWitt businesses and several parishes in the Diocese of Davenport. Through these efforts, Grillot estimates that approximately $10,000 has been raised.
Grillot has taken on the pursuit of a new van with equal parts dedicated effort and a trust in his faith, an approach that he believes has helped him throughout his life.
“My attitude of perseverance and not quitting or giving up, and knowing that whatever is going on … God has a plan … even thought his answers don’t always come in the shape or form that you’re looking for. Accepting that is part of the faith journey,” he said.
To learn more about Grillot’s fundraising campaign, visit http://www.you caring.com/other/
(Emmaline Jurgena, a student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, is an intern for The Catholic Messenger. Her family belongs to Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.)