Matthew Walzer oversees our nonprofit’s Google Ad Grant as a Digital Strategist at Cause Inspired Media (CIM). I’ve been privileged to work with CIM for half-a-decade and because of Matthew’s expertise our Google Ad Grant has continuously maxed out at over $120,000 each year. I’m also pleased to share that I have both a professional and personal friendship with Matthew. You see, Matthew and I both believe that philanthropy, volunteerism and the nonprofit sector are essential to civil society. Matthew has spent his life in service to others ensuring that you and I experience a life worth living.
Here’s Matthew’s story in his own words:
I was born two months premature and diagnosed with cerebral palsy spastic diplegia (CP) at around a year old. My cerebral palsy affects my walking, balance, vision, and fine motor skills. I have overcome many challenges in my life. Still, there is one that I was never able to overcome, tying my shoes. CP stiffens and tightens the muscles in the body. For me, this has resulted in a lack of dexterity in my right hand, making shoe tying impossible. As I got older, this became more and more frustrating. There was such a need for accessible footwear, but no one had spoken up. I knew I had to speak up for not only myself but for so many others with physical challenges.
In the summer of 2012, with college just around the corner and the goal of going away to school, I wrote an open letter to Nike asking for shoes that everyone could put on, regardless of physical ability. The letter went viral (#NikeLetter) and what resulted was a three-year collaboration with Nike from 2012-2015. I would test and give feedback and insights on rear entry prototypes that Nike would send me and give my input on materials, fit, support, cushioning, and more. This three-year journey led to what became a completely new line of shoes called FlyEase.
The independence that these shoes gave me allowed me to achieve my dream of going to college. I graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2018 with a Business Management degree with a concentration in sports. I have been fortunate enough to share my journey and continued desire to make the world more inclusive via various national multimedia platforms such as “The Drew Barrymore Show,” NPR, Spotify, and Yahoo. I have also been recognized for my advocacy and spoken at events for United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles, Arc, and Runway of Dreams. In 2016, I had the honor to speak on universal design and disability advocacy at the Obama White House for their Design For All Showcase.
Writing my letter to Nike as a 16-year-old and now looking back on it 10 years later, on National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, I am so proud that people’s lives have been forever changed, and now so many have freedom and independence that previously did not exist. I want people to view my advocacy as an example that any one person can make an impact and be an impactful voice. While there have many great strides for inclusion and equity since the ADA was passed in 1990, there is still a lot of work to be done.
I work with hundreds of charities each day. This week I was tackling Arc Jacksonville’s Google Ad Grant. One of the marquee programs of Arc Jacksonville is their On Campus Transition program, which provides young adults with disabilities the opportunity to enroll in college courses, participate in student organizations and clubs and have the option to live in on campus housing with assistance.
A program like this opens a world of possibility for students with disabilities and here’s to hoping that more programs like this arise across the country.
I am so proud to work for Cause Inspired to further strengthen nonprofits and the communities that they serve. I look forward to meeting you personally to ensure you and your nonprofit achieve their important mission.
Matthew Walzer Serves & Celebrates Nonprofits was first posted at 501c3.Buzz.