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The boy who loved to fish

1/14/2010

Some of ESPN Outdoors.com's monthly highlights are photo submissions of great catches and exceptional memories made by our readers.

Every once in a while one catches our attention, and we feel like it deserves more than just a photo.

That was definitely the case with 8-year old Matthew Giedra of Mount Kisco, N.Y. The first photo received was of Matthew and a 75-pound tarpon caught near Marathon, Fla.

The following is the email from his father, Bruce, that accompanied the photo:

"I have attached a picture of a highlight of my oldest son Matthew's fishing career.

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"In April of 2006 under the Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon, Florida he caught a 5-foot, 75-pound tarpon that he had always dreamed of catching (he had decided this was the ultimate fish from watching TV shows and DVDs).

"I had the honor of holding him in the boat and helping him so he did not get pulled overboard. We got the fish to the boat so the guide could help to save it from a large hammerhead and to take a few pictures.

"There were a number of boats by us that cheered him on during the catch. Both he and I were extremely proud. It is one of my most treasured memories of Matthew.

"Matthew passed away from brain cancer in 2007 at the age of 9. I got to have many wonderful adventures with him before then, a lot of which centered around fishing."

We were touched and asked Giedra for more information about his son. He added this information to a subsequent email with more photos, including one of Matthew with his hero, Derek Jeter.

"In fact he was the one who got the whole family into fishing (I had not done much fishing on my own since childhood). Matthew taught his two younger brothers (Justin and Brandon) and youngest sister (Kaitlyn) to fish.

"They all looked up to him as their ringleader and fishing guide even if it was for sunnies or a stick fish. Fishing with Matthew and exploring the outdoors together are the things his sibling remember best about Matthew.

"He continued to love fishing even when a stroke due to his tumor left him wheelchair bound. He was determined to let nothing slow him down. He continued to fish from shore, party boats (Marathon Lady — the crew is great and family friendly), private boats and fishing charters. He caught or helped catch barracuda, kingfish and bull sharks as well as numerous smaller species.

"Matthew passed away from a type of brain tumor (Astrocytoma/Glioma) for which he received excellent medical care from wonderful doctors, nurses and therapist but for which there is currently not a great cure rate/prognosis. Matthew's family (his mother, father and siblings) encourage people to support research into finding a cure for pediatric brain tumors.

"His future career aspirations, besides being another Derek Jeter or a Steve Irwin/Crocodile Hunter, was to have his own fishing show.

"Matthew loved to hang out at a local fishing store by where we live here in New York. He managed to amass quite a fishing rod and tackle collection. He even learned to fly cast (catching trout in local streams) and started to learn to tie flies before his cancer spread.

"We started going to Marathon in the Florida Keys a few years before he got sick and continue to make it an annual Spring tradition."

Thank you Mr. Giedra, and thank you Matthew, for reminding us of how special memories can really be, and how the fond memories can provide us strength in times of hardship.