December 30, 2015 | Updated: January 29, 2019

By Steve Helm

Every Special Olympics Texas athlete has a significant story, including some like Matthew’s, which are life-altering! 

Your gift to Special Olympics Texas will help give another child or adult with intellectual disabilities similar opportunities and experiences that Matthew has been able to attain. 

You can read Matthew's story in detail below.

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Matthew Hernandez's SOTX Story


One of the highlights of 2015 for Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) occurred this July. SOTX sent 14 athletes, four head coaches, two coaches, a Unified Partner and a technical delegate from all across the Lone Star State to compete as part of Special Olympics USA in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, Calif. While each and every one of our participants returned home with stories full of success and happiness, here’s one that stands out… 

Mesquite-area SOTX athlete Matthew Hernandez came home from World Games in Los Angeles this summer with a silver medal in kayaking. For Hernandez, that moment was never supposed to happen. 

At three months old, Hernandez was diagnosed with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome (RTS), a rare genetic disorder that affects many organ systems.

The outlook that his grandparents – Kathy and Jack Green – were given was that he would never live to be 11 years old and would never speak or sit up without being strapped in a wheelchair. The only way he would receive nourishment would be through a feeding tube through his stomach. He would be severely mentally handicapped. 

The Greens did not accept that prognosis and they took it upon themselves to try alternate feeding methods. They fed him with an eye dropper, which took hours to do, but eventually it paid off and he started eating on his own.

Now at 22 years old, Hernandez has defied all odds and has found his passion in sports through Special Olympics Texas. 

In 2012 Hernandez met another young man with RTS, Christian Aguilar. They have been best friends since the day they met. They talk on the phone every day. It is amazing to see how much they are alike. They call themselves the ‘RTS Brothers’. They compete against one another in Basketball and Softball.

A graduate of North Mesquite High School and employed by Mesquite ISD as a bus monitor, Hernandez was one of 14 Texans who qualified for this past summer’s World Games. He earned fourth place in the 200 meter race in addition to his silver medal in the 500-meter event. 

Hernandez would make the most of the opportunity, as he earned fourth place in the 200 meter race in addition to his silver medal in the 500-meter event.

Hernandez worked very hard every day to prepare for the World Games. He went to the gym twice a week and practiced on the water at White Rock Lake five days a week with his teammate Travis Smith. Together, they worked on strength and technique. Even while he was at home, Hernandez did some exercises that his parents set up for him. 

From doing interviews with local and national television broadcasts, including NBC’s TODAY Show before making his World Games voyage, Hernandez has been looked upon as a celebrity and a hero, especially in his hometown.

Shortly after his return from World Games, the City of Mesquite made an unprecedented gesture to Hernandez during its August city council meeting. 

On Aug. 17, 2015, Mayor Stan Pickett honored him with a proclamation, declaring the date “Matthew Hernandez Day” in Mesquite. As if that weren’t enough, Honorary Road between Scyene Road and Military Parkway was renamed “Matt Hernandez Dr.” for the following 30 days. The council members also presented him with a banner that now hangs at Evans Recreation Center to honor his silver medal. Another councilman gave him kayaking paddles with the Special Olympics World Games and the City of Mesquite logos. 

For a life that was at one point assumed to be cut short, Hernandez is proving why everyone should live life to the fullest. He certainly made 2015 count!