An elementary school coach whose job was in jeopardy due to the coronavirus pandemic received a $65,000 surprise and a surprise hello from country music star Luke Bryan Friday on "Good Morning America."
"I am so blessed. I can’t thank you enough," said Matthew Bailey, a 24-year-old Playworks coach in Oakland, California. "I really appreciate you all."
Bailey is a Playworks coach at Manzanita Community Elementary School, the same school he attended as a kid. Playworks is a California-based nonprofit organization that works to help schools and youth programs across the U.S. create recess and play environments, according to its website.
“I want them knowing that they have an African-American role model or someone to look up to in the community,” Bailey told "GMA" of why he coaches in his hometown. “Someone that grew up just down the street and they can turn to if they need anything.”
Not only does Bailey teach kids on the field, but he also mentors students in conflict resolution skills and teaches kids meditation practices and how to be leaders.
“We all love him, ‘cause he’s so fun and funny,” Guadalupe Bahena, one of Bailey’s students, told “GMA.”
“He always makes the game more exciting,” added another student, Londyn Lovette. “He taught me how to play football.”
“He taught us when you lose, you have to get back up,” said another student, Alfaisaley Ali.
Bailey met his mentor, Coach Max Langaard, as an 8-year-old kid in the Playworks program, and it was Langaard who inspired Bailey to return to the program as a coach. Because of his efforts to uplift kids in the community, “Good Morning America” surprised Bailey and his mentor in 2019 with tickets to a Golden State Warriors NBA game.
Bailey’s efforts to inspire kids didn’t stop when the coronavirus pandemic hit. As schools turned to remote learning and programs like Playworks went virtual, he started virtual training for students in Manzanita who need him the most during these challenging times.
“We’re trying to bring back a sense of normalcy,” said Playworks president Elizabeth Cushing. “And to give kids a reason to connect to school, if they’re virtual, if they know they’re going to get to play, they’ll want to show up, and they’ll believe that they are still a part of that school community.”
But with the challenges that come with the coronavirus pandemic, funding has taken a big toll on programs like Playworks, putting Bailey's dream job at Manzanita Community Elementary School in jeopardy.
“We’re you know, just barely scraping by to make those payments,” said Amy Jones, the school's principal.
To help keep Bailey on staff, his fellow staff members created a GoFundMe that had raised about $5,000.
“We are Manzanita Community Elementary School in Oakland, California. We want to ensure that our students have the best school experience possible,” the fundraising page reads. “Coach Matthew's job is at risk and we need him at our school!”
Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation announced Friday on "GMA" that they have donated $65,000 dollars towards the fundraiser. This amount will help fund Bailey's coaching, and provide sports equipment for the school.
Bailey was also surprised by "American Idol" judge Luke Bryan, his favorite singer, a surprise that he called a "dream come true."
Bryan said he has been a fan of Bailey's since seeing him on "GMA" last year.
"I remember seeing your story originally and to find out you’re a fan of mine is amazing," he said. "Thank you so much for all your contributions to these kids, it’s so important. I had teachers and coaches that still have lasting advice and life lessons burned into my brain."
"Watching everything you’ve overcome and still have the attitude to continue to get up and continue to give, to give back 10-fold, [it’s] very inspiring," added Bryan, who also invited Bailey to one of his shows once he is able to safely resume touring.
"I’d love to get you out to a show and meet you personally," Bryan told Bailey.