Birthday gift to hospital honors boy’s memory

Matthew Jacques

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A North Haven family is honoring the memory of a special little boy. Eleven years ago today, Matty Jacques was born with a heart defect. He did not live long, but he touched a lot of lives. In fact, he still is.

It was a special delivery of some very welcome supplies at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. To know the reason, you have to know about Matty, an adorable little boy for whom the hospital was a second home.

“With our son being born with a heart defect, we spent a lot of time at Yale Children’s,” remembers Matty’s mother, Melissa.

In the 6 and a half years he was alive, he made a big impact. His North Haven school raised money to help with his medical expenses. He scored a touchdown for the high school football team.

Related: North Haven family turns pain into purpose at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital

He passed away in 2013, but his parents have been keeping his memory alive. Every year since, they donate hundreds of stuffed animals to the Child Life Program at Yale. Erica Smith was Matty’s child life specialist and she knows the joy a simple gift like this brings.

“So it just brightens up their day. These big smiles come over their faces,” Smith said. “It bring s a little bit of joy and comfort to their day and really just helps them feel at ease of being in the hospital.”

It’s been a different animal every year. 2018 is roaring in with a lion. About 230 of them, in fact. For the Jacques, it’s a way of giving back to those who helped them and Matty through their darkest days, and it’s a way to give a present to other sick kids on a very special day…Matty’s birthday.

“He was the light of our life,” Melissa Jacques said. “Losing him 4 years ago was extremely difficult. For us to still remember him and pay it forward, and what better day than today for his 11th birthday.”

Last year, Yale got so many stuffed animals, they didn’t know what to do with all of them, so this year, for the first time, the Jacques family is giving about 50 of the lions to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

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