Jeff and Renée Wuchich with Matthew

Jordan Center | Fall 2011 Spotlight |

Four-year-old Matthew is the brown-eyed poster boy for a tiny foundation that won a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh Challenge grant last year. Appearing in a YouTube video about alternating hemiplegia of childhood (AHC), he drew enough online votes to catapult the AHC Foundation into a winning position from its No. 235 start. Matthew’s video was viewed the world over, and he was locally famous as the boy with a rare neurological disorder. But back at the Jordan Center, where he attended preschool, he was someone else.

He was the “Dancing King.”

It’s not a nickname you’d expect for a child who can’t walk or move easily. AHC causes sporadic paralysis that can last for days and developmental delays that persist for life. But Jordan Center teachers knew and loved atthew for all of his special qualities—his surprising physical strength, his strong opinions and his love of music, which they played often in his classroom, says toddlers coordinator Tasha Little. “If you’d hold him and start playing
music, he’d throw his body back and sway and sing,” Little says. “Anytime he heard singing or music, he’d light up and get all full of energy.”

Matthew was 18 months old when doctors diagnosed him with AHC and 2 when his parents, Jeff and Renée Wuchich, enrolled him at the Jordan Center. They were attracted by the center’s unique ability to serve special-needs children and keep them in a traditional classroom. “Matthew has benefited from being with typically developing children,” Jeff says. “He picks up their words. He sees how they move their bodies. He learns things that he wouldn’t with other special-needs children or with adults.”

The family also has enjoyed deep and supportive relationships with Jordan Center staff. In July, when the AHC Foundation hosted an international family meeting in Raleigh, Little volunteered to help care for Matthew and other children during the day sessions. Her motives for helping outside the classroom were twofold: She wanted the visiting families to have worry-free childcare and get the most from their meeting. She also wanted her two teens, whom she brought with her, to appreciate their blessings of good health.

“I thought, what better way for them to realize there are people with real, pressing issues that are a lot bigger than getting the right sneaker?” Little says. “I wanted to show my kids that we’ve got other people to help besides ourselves.”

Matthew is now enrolled in Wake County Preschool Special Education Services at Rolesville Elementary, but he comes back to the Jordan Center for his summers. In the meantime, the AHC Foundation has applied its Pepsi
grant winnings to a high-tech genome sequencing project that maps and compares the genes of 23 people diagnosed with AHC. Jeff is the AHC Foundation president, and he hopes to have an analysis of candidate genes in
hand by 2012. It’s his best hope for finding a cause and possible cure for his son’s disease.

Matthew’s diagnosis has been devastating, but it’s also been spiritually transformative for his family and others who meet him. The glory of God shines through Matthew and his disability, Jeff says, as it did through the blind man encountered by Christ and his disciples in John 9:1-5. “That,” he says, “is what’s happening here.”