NEWARK, AR (KAIT) - Many communities in Independence County are working to alleviate the burden of a young man recently diagnosed with cancer. The odds that doctors have given Matthew Williams aren't good but he tells us he's confident in his faith and that optimism has touched many.
For those who know Matt, a smile is a permanent fixture on his face. Shawn Craig, one of Matt's former teachers in the Cedar Ridge School District told Region 8 News he did more learning from Matt than teaching him.
"Normally students learn from teachers but there's one thing I've learned from Matt, he's always smiling, got a positive attitude," Craig said.
Especially since to most people's standards, life's been less than fair for Matt.
"If there was anybody that had a reason to be upset, that would be Matt but he had such a positive attitude and we can learn so much from that," Craig said.
The 25-year-old has spina bifida and is wheelchair bound but what might've proved a disability for many never did for Matt.
In October of 2013, he married. It's something he told us off camera that was the best thing in the world.
However, a recent diagnosis with abdominal mesothelioma - which affects less than 500 people in the US each year - has his community rallying behind him, finding different ways to raise money for Matt and Marilyn.
"For Matthew's fundraiser, we are selling Boston Butts for $25 each," Lorie Craig told Region 8 News.
Lorie is Shawn's wife. She too has been touched by Matt and wanted to find a way to raise money to help Matt and Marilyn with medical and living expenses.
"He's a very blessed soul that I'm very glad and I'm very thankful that he's been in my life," Lorie said.
Matt told us he took one round of chemotherapy in early January but decided not to continue treatment.
"It was just making him so sick and that's not what he wanted to do...he didn't want to live out his life like that and so he's decided he's going to leave it up to the Lord's hands," Lorie explained.
It's a faith she hopes touches many others.
"Because he's not only touched me as a teacher but as a mom...I hope I raise my son to show as much faith as he has."
If you would like to purchase a Boston Butt, you can contact the Newark Elementary School. They will be available for pick-up Saturday March 8 from 10am to 2pm at the Newark Elementary Cafeteria.
A special fund has also been set up at Merchant and Planters Bank of Batesville. All donations to the "Matthew L. Williams Cancer Fund" will go directly to living and medical expenses. Donations can be made at any Merchant and Planters Bank or mailed to P.O. Box 2022, Batesville, AR 72503.