Tributes paid to Langford sporting and charity hero Matt King OBE
Tributes are being paid to a sporting and charity hero, originally from Langford, who dedicated his time to helping others after a life-changing accident.
Matt King OBE, 33, died on February 23 after suffering heart failure following a prolonged stay in hospital, where he was admitted in early December with bowel problems.
The ex-student at Biggleswade’s Stratton Upper School was left paralysed after a rugby accident aged 17, and went to on to visit and inspire hospital patients who had suffered serious back and spinal injuries.
In 2012 he was awarded an OBE for his services, and during the same year he helped to carry the Olympic torch through Dunstable.
Rugby League Benevolent Fund general manager, Steve Ball, said: “We are devastated at the loss of a young man who was an inspiration to everyone who had the privilege to meet him.
“In true Matt King style, he fought to the very end but tragically his battle ended at 4.30 this morning (February 23).Our thoughts are with Matt’s family, especially his wife, Ilona, and their two lovely daughters, two-year-old, Arabella, and baby Georgia, who is just 11 months old.”
Matt suffered a serious spinal injury playing for London Broncos Academy Under 18s, with the accident leaving him paralysed from the neck down and unable to breathe independently.
His injury led to the creation of the RL Benevolent Fund, which provides assistance to players who have suffered life-changing injuries, and says that Matt “defied his disability to achieve great things”.
Matt raised tens of thousands of pounds for the RL Benevolent Fund and other organisations through a series of events and activities.
He also became a successful and talented mouth artist, producing some fantastic artwork using his mouth alone, and gained a First Class honours Law degree.
Speaking to the Chronicle in 2012, Matt said: “When I visit the patients I meet people who have suffered injuries in many different ways.
“But these things happen and if you worry about it all the time, you would never do anything with your life.”
His story is captured in his autobiography 04.04.04, published in 2015, which the Independent described as “the inspirational journey of a truly inspirational man”.
Principal Roz Hodges, of Stratton Upper School, said: “We are all very saddened by the news of the tragic loss of such a resilient, inspiring and passionate young man. At school Matt was a very committed student, who was particularly dedicated to sport and working out at lunchtimes in the school gym.
“Matt was well liked by everyone in the school community; respectful, polite and a real gentleman.
“The tenacity and sheer grit he showed when returning after his injury, to complete his A-levels and then go on to obtain his degree in law, was truly humbling and an inspiration to staff and students alike.
“Matt returned to Stratton in January 2017 as our guest speaker for the annual Senior Awards Evening. Matt’s speech was such an inspiration to our young prize winners and they were keen to meet him in person for a chat after the ceremony.
“It was a touching occasion for staff who worked with Matt while he was a student at Stratton and they were delighted to hear of his successes and the life he was building with his wife Ilona and their plans to start a family. Matt has left behind a phenomenal and lasting legacy, and we hope our current and future students will continue to be influenced by his amazing story. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time and our hearts go out to them.”