Matthew McAlexander, a young Kernersville man who died after a boating accident in Nebraska five years ago, was a selfless and giving person to friends, family and the community, and it is that spirit of kindness and generosity those close to him want people to remember.
As the five-year anniversary of McAlexander’s death approached last week, his cousin, Lauren McAlexander, kicked off a CrowdRise fundraising campaign in the hopes of raising $10,000 toward the Matthew McAlexander Memorial Scholarship that was established in his memory in 2012.
“When tossing around ideas of how we could honor Matthew following his death, plenty of ideas were passed around, but we eventually settled on a scholarship fund. Matthew by no means lived a lavish lifestyle and worked very hard to get where he was. We wanted to help other kids who, like him, had a passion to do something but maybe not the monetary means,” said McAlexander. “This is the best way we felt we could help the community to further their education and follow their dreams.”
McAlexander grew up in Kernersville and served as a firefighter and EMT at Piney Grove Fire and Rescue Department. He and his younger brother, Joshua Rowley, 12, were in Nebraska in July 2011 visiting family when the accident occurred. The two were being pulled by a boat on Sherman Lake on July 3 when they were struck by a pontoon boat. Rowley died at the scene and McAlexander succumbed to his injuries two days later without ever regaining consciousness.
The driver of the pontoon boat, a 39-year-old Nebraska man, was charged with boating under the influence (BUI) and sentenced to 18-months of probation for the accident. The initial charges against the man included two counts of manslaughter, but those were dropped after he agreed to plea no contest to the BUI charge.
Lauren McAlexander said Thursday that her cousin was a big part of not only her life, but in the lives of most everyone who knew and loved him. And he grew up always wanting to help others.
“Matthew was my older cousin but served more as the older brother I never had. He was a huge family man and would do anything in his power to protect us,” McAlexander shared. “Ever since I can remember, he wanted to be in some sort of public service. From a young age, he would talk to my dad, a retired cop from Charlotte Metro Police Department, about how to make the world a better place. Up until the day he passed away, he worked diligently to better the world around him.”
Since the Matthew McAlexander Memorial Scholarship was set up, two have been awarded totaling $1,100, and then one of those was renewed this year for $500, McAlexander said.
“The scholarship was created in the beginning of 2012 by the McAlexander family, but there was not enough money to begin awarding significant scholarships until 2014,” explained McAlexander.
“We want to do so much more. We want to make a significant difference in the lives of these students, which is why donations from friends, family members and strangers alike are integral,” McAlexander said.
According to McAlexander, the scholarship was set up through the Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC), which helps to maintain and manage the scholarship fund without the concern of where the money is actually going. She added that it is an endowed scholarship and permanent legacy fund, with its assets held irrevocably and in perpetuity by the FFTC.
In kicking off the fundraising campaign for the scholarship fund, McAlexander issued a challenge to the friends and family of her cousin. On the page site, she wrote the following:
“Matthew McAlexander was a young man we all loved, valued and enjoyed. As a Firefighter/EMT at Piney Grove Fire Department in Kernersville, North Carolina, Matt was selfless and truly giving to his community. Matt was a trusted friend, confidant, musician and the type of person who would go out of his way to make someone feel better about any situation they found themselves in.
“On July 5, 2011, Matt was tragically taken from us before the magnitude of his influence could be fully realized. Today, we have the opportunity to honor Matthew and all the good he stood for. We are asking his friends, family and brothers and sisters in Public Safety to assist us in honoring this young man who gave so much to his community.
“We have partnered with the Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC) to maintain and manage the Matthew McAlexander Memorial Scholarship. To date, we have awarded three scholarships to deserving students who like Matt, make a difference in the world around them on a day-to-day basis.
“On this 5 year anniversary, we are challenging the people who knew and loved Matthew to raise $100 in his honor. In doing so, this will allow the scholarship to sustain itself and assist individuals in the community to follow their dreams.
“This is for the 100 phone calls Matthew made to check in on people. The 100 text messages he sent to remind you he was thinking of you. The 100’s of miles he drove to spend time with his loved ones. The 100’s of hugs and smiles he blessed us with every time we were in his presence. This is for Matthew.”
In addition to the CrowdRise site, there are other ways donors can support the scholarship fund.
“The best and most preferred way for people to donate is to visit the foundation’s website and donate directly there. They can do this by going to ‘Foundation For The Carolinas – FFTC’ and click on ‘donate online’ and select the Matthew McAlexander Memorial Scholarship and follow the directions to donate,” explained McAlexander.
What is it that McAlexander most wants people to know about Matt?
“I think the most important thing for people to know about Matt if they didn’t have the opportunity to is that he loved people and his community more than himself. He was a loyal family member and friend and always put others first. He was a dedicated fireman to Piney Grove Fire Department where he would work as much as he could and help as many people as he could. He was a truly wonderful young man and we are still, to this day, devastated by the loss. Our lives have not been the same since that day, but we look forward to helping others in his name,” she said.