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Young Monroeville cancer victim left lasting impression on community

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Michelle Burkhart, a second-grade teacher, shares a moment with Matthew at the 'taping.' University Park students purchased duct tape last week from Matthew Jacko's third-grade classroom. Matthew a student in Mrs. Lindsay Mueller class, has an inoperable brain tumor. On Monday, November 24 the students taped their principal, Mr. Brian Werner to the wall with the tape they purchased. A total of $2071 was raised.
(c) 2012 Lillian DeDomenic
Matthew Jacko, 7, walks up the ramp to his deck with Stan Karwoski (left) and his dad, Brian. Members of Monroeville Fire Company #5 donated their time and money to build Matthew a ramp walkway and deck that is wheelchair accessible. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Plum Advance Leader Family portrait with Jocelyn Mynahan, Ryan Jacko, Matthew Jacko and Carey Jacko.

Matthew Jacko had a confidence about him in social settings not typical of a 9-year-old.

He was a ballplayer, comedian and philanthropist who left a lasting impression with just about everyone he met.

Matthew died last week in his Monroeville home after a two-year bout with cancer, but family members said he made his impact.

More than 100 people attended Matthew's funeral on Monday at St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Monroeville as a final show of respect for a family whom the community already had embraced.

A rendition of “Oh Danny Boy” was played on bagpipes before the service, and local firefighters positioned their trucks to lead the funeral procession afterward.

Matthew's uncle, Patrick Mynahan, spoke about his nephew's sense of humor and spunk.

“He instinctively knew how to make people laugh, how to make girls swoon and how to get anyone he chose to fall in love with him,” Mynahan said.

His knock-knock jokes were infamous.

“It's my hope is that the thousands of times Matthew made us laugh over the years will help us dry our tears and unbreak our hearts,” Mynahan said. “I believe Matthew is in heaven now, telling God jokes and how to run things.”

Doctors at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh diagnosed Matthew two years ago with an inoperable brain tumor.

While his parents, Brian and Carey, dealt with extended hospital visits and mounting bills, the community lent a collective hand. Family, friends and neighbors organized fundraisers, and a local fire company took notice.

Members of Monroeville Fire Company No. 5 spent $3,000 from their budget to build a wheelchair-accessible ramp to the rear of their home and a deck extending from the family's back door.

Volunteer firefighter Stan Karwoski, who spearheaded the project, would stop at the Jackos' home after work to saw and hammer until the sun went down.

Carey Mynahan-Jacko said at the time she was “baffled” by the generosity of friends and acquaintances.

But it wasn't until Matthew paid it forward that his story gained national attention.

A toy drive organized by the family at the behest of Matthew provided 1,000 stuffed monkeys to patients at Children's Hospital and the Forbes Hospital pediatric unit, among other child-based nonprofit organizations.

In lieu of flowers at Matthew's viewing, the family asked for memorial contributions made to the Miracle League Field in Murrysville, where Matthew played his final innings.

“Matt was one of our Cincinnati Reds,” Miracle League of Western Pennsylvania President Harold Hicks said.

“He loved the game, and his parents loved to be involved with him at the games.”

Mynahan said donations and prayers have come from nearly every state in the country and a few cities outside of the U.S.

Deacon Michael Kelly said Matthew's story could teach everyone a lesson, regardless of their age.

“He never focused on ‘Why is this happening to me?' ” Kelly said Monday.

“He focused on ‘What can I do for other people?' ”

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or

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