I was lucky enough to meet Matt about 18 months ago, in the Summer of 2009. He was interested in SLS services and unsure as to his options. He seemed incredibly nervous, very serious and full of thoughtful questions. Fast forward to now, Winter of 2010 and Matt and his situation have slightly changed. Matt is presently working part-time at Safeway, he lives in his own 2-bedroom house that he rents, he is a paid, private tennis tutor to children and adults and is a perfect example of what Supported Living can offer to the right person, at the right time.
Matt was born on July 29, 1977 in San Jose, California. He was adopted at birth by his wonderful parents, Emily and Gil Perusa. Early on he was diagnosed with a seizure disorder and later in his life, ADD. Matt never let these issues get in the way of the goals that he wanted to achieve. Matt is one of the most determined, goal oriented and focused human beings I have ever met. This season alone, he was able to win three gold medals playing competitive tennis in Special Olympics. He has a genuine love for tennis and becomes a different person while playing on the court. He lights up from the inside out and you get the feeling that the court belongs to him while he is on it. Not only is he currently teaching his staff to play tennis, but we have a tournament lined up for our next circle meeting. People truly feel lucky to work with Matt, if only to witness his greatness on the court. He has a gift, and not only is he willing to share his gift, but he loves to teach others his craft.
Matt has an amazing family that stands behind him at all times. It is clear that they love Matt and genuinely want him to become the independent man they know he can be. They do not coddle him and they are teaching him to stand on his own two feet. Matt's parents are amazing people and one of the things I admire most about Matt is that he appreciates them and thanks them often for everything they do for him. He brags about his nieces often and enjoys teaching them tennis as well. Family is a hugely important piece of Matt's life. He has told me often that he would be nowhere without his parents.
Matt's hobbies are tennis, going to the gym, being active, dating, socializing, skateboarding, baseball, football and oh, did I mention dating?? One of Matt's lifelong goals is to find the right woman and get married, have a family and settle down. He really enjoys peer interaction and looks forward to the time he has with his friends, girlfriends and co-workers. In preparing for this synopsis on Matt, I asked him some very pointed questions and he answered me honestly and genuinely. He shared that some of his fears are rejection, not being accepted and sharks. He let me know that the only time he feels his disability gets in the way is when he really needs to focus on something. His favorite part of being in SLS has been meeting some good people, and growing as a person.
One thing I noticed early on about Matt is that he always wears his house key around his neck. He wears it to work, to bed, when he goes out, ALL the time. When I finally was able to ask him about it the other day he explained it to me. When he lived with his parents in their last home, they would not give him a house key. His frustration over this issue led to Matt telling his parents that he wanted to look at another housing opportunity. He said, "I don't know how to explain it, I just know that all I wanted was to have my own place to live, my own keys to hold and something that was mine." I would imagine that those keys around his neck serve as a reminder of everything that he has accomplished, every goal met and how very far he has come. I personally, can't wait to see what he does next.
Written by Michelle Reprince