Brown was just seven years old, and a second grader at PES, when he was stricken with the disease. In the months following the diagnosis he and his family spent countless days at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis as he bravely battled the illness.
While he was being cared for, Matthew's fellow students at PES, and staff members, held a variety of fund raisers to help defray the cost of treatment. This included a 5K fun run held in Oct.2011, which raised around $3,000.
The school and community also showed great support for Matthew and his family in other ways, scheduling such events as a special parade prior to a home Mohawk football game with the young man serving as Grand Marshal. Matthew served as honorary captain of the football team that night, and was carried onto the field on the shoulders of the team.
In the months since his death the students and staff have worked to insure that his memory lives on, taking steps to help provide support for St. Jude's, and the Ronald McDonald House that provides lodging for family members. This has led to a number of fundraisers, and the collection of can tabs, to benefit the efforts.
Tuesday morning Brown's parents, Elisha and Isaac Brown, were on hand for the memorial ceremony along with his sisters, Natalie, Kaitlyn and Adalyn. The family members gathered with students and staff on the parking lot behind PES, and remembered the young man who had touched so many lives in his short time.
Prior to the balloon launch PES principal Leean Mann presented a symbolic check for $1,500, representing the money raised by students and staff. The funds are being donated to St. Jude's to help pay for research. In recognition of the donation, a brick with Matthew's name on it will be placed at the facility.
Mann also noted that the book "Heaven is for Real, For Kids" was being donated to the PES library in Matthew's memory.
The ceremony concluded with brief comments from Bro. Kevin Murray, followed by a moment of silence and the balloon release. Those taking part included the third grade class, of which Matthew would have been a member, and the fourth grade classmates of his sister Natalie. Also on hand were the students from the Piggott ABC School, which includes the classmates of sister Kaitlyn.
Matthew's family then took part in the book donation ceremony, and presented the volume to PES librarian Pam Morgan.
Matthew's name, along with former PHS standout Erica Rickman, will also appear on the new trophy case slated to be constructed in the Piggott High Gym. A fundraiser to benefit that cause was held late last fall, and the effort is currently in the planning stages. Rickman, a 2007 graduate of Piggott High also battled a malignant brain tumor, and lost her battle with cancer Feb. 17, 2009 at the age of 19.