Chef Matthew Hayden is the heart and soul behind all of the meals prepared for our Simply Fight! and NO Age NO Stage program recipients. Once you read his story, you will love him as much as we do!
Lately my life has been filled with revelations. As a Chef and foodservice professional, I have spent the better part of my adulthood in a kitchen preparing food. Although I have been in a position to serve my clients for many years, my vocation has a different complexion today.
Looking back over the years, and across my own family line, it is no wonder that I have developed a connection with people who are traveling a difficult road. Caring for people was a doctrine in my house: My mother was a nurse, her mother was a nurse, my sister is currently a nurse of nearly 30 years. As my ancestors aged and eventually got sick, it was our manner to take care of them, and comfort them in our home to whatever end.
It was not until years later, in my late 30’s that my current calling came knocking.
It was spring of 2004, and after successfully owning our first business for a number of years, my family decided to invest in a full-service restaurant. Shortly after opening, my mother was diagnosed with aggressive cancer that developed in her lungs and spread rapidly. I was devastated by the news and began the difficult task of juggling our new restaurant and assisting my family with my mother’s care. As my mother’s health deteriorated, I tried to bring her favorite foods – but her taste buds were off and she often rejected these foods. Before I was able to wrap my head around what was happening, my mother passed.
At that point, I began actively seeking out numerous non-profit organizations. I embraced the idea of serving the community in a more profound way and dedicated a portion of my time to those causes. However, it was not until 2011 that my true calling was set to motion.
Through a mutual friend in Premier Health Partners, I was introduced to Heather Salazar and Pink Ribbon Girls. We began very humbly with a single family, delivering frozen meals in a freezer bag we bought at Sam's. Within a few weeks, there were more families, and it was then that I had my first of many revelations: I am going to serve meals that they love. I am going to serve meals that give them the best possible nutrition for their difficult journey. I am going to learn as much as I can about this rotten disease. I am going to help. I will help.
These last few years have been the most rewarding years of my life. I know with certainty now that I want to spend the rest of my days serving others. More often than I care to admit, I get wrapped up in the trappings of daily life, of the ups and downs of my business and of typical resentments and insecurities… Then I hear from one of the girls…
Then all that remains is the revelation.
Pink Ribbon Girls keep me honest and driven. That is a symptom of being in their presence.