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Waterford community remembers young boy with big heart

WATERFORD - The community is mourning the loss of a young life.  16-year-old-year old Matthew Westervelt passed away this week.  Friday the Waterford-Halfmoon school district cancelled classes for students to attend funeral services.  But, it did open their doors for friends to share stories about Matthew.

At a young age, it would seem Matt Westervelt was wise beyond his years.  Despite being dealt some trouble with his health, those who knew him said you would never know it, until he was taken too soon.
"It's ironic that a young man with a heart condition had such a big heart, and that's what I'll remember," said Chris Scanlan, junior/senior high school principal.

Now, his heart is part of this community forever.  Matthew Westervelt was a sophomore and even gave his heart as a Junior Ambassador to the American Heart Association. Recently Matt was the Student of the Month, at school whenever he could be between medical trips.  The district closed Friday, but students and family came back to the building after Matthew's funeral.  It's where he managed the modified basketball team, was a best buddy, a born leader amongst other students.

"They were always coming to him for something, for assistance," said Gerald Cherniwchan, who was also Matt's Boy Scout master.  He said Matt was well on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, and "was a really easy person to talk to."

"He didn't become an official Eagle Scout, but he's flying with the eagles now," Cherniwchan said.

His most significant merit badge perhaps was the camaraderie he made along the way.  Matt's best friend's grandfather watched the two of them go on ice fishing trips, have sleepovers and pizza parties.

"We took Matthew in to our home like he was one of our own," Art Riley said.  "His gift was an infectious personality.  His smile was never-ending, his attitude was positive."

Riley wants to make sure Matthew's name is never forgotten in this community -- one in which Matthew never met a stranger, and said hello to everyone -- never letting his illness stand in the way.

"He did not let it define him," Scanlan said.  "It was a piece of who he was and he never denied that but what defined him was his zest for life and that he wanted to do so much and that he did do a lot.  He packed a lot in to sixteen years."Mr. Riley tells us the school, as well as local police and fire departments, are already coming up with ideas for fundraisers is Matthew's name.  He wanted to be a cardiologist when he grew up.

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