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Remembering No. 33, Matthew Coll

Earl Jones and Thomas, Colleen and Mike Coll
Thomas, Colleen and Mike Coll throw out the ceremonial first pitches.

Supporters of Matthew Coll at the recent Donor Dash.
About 90 people joined Matthew’s Gentle Giants for the Donor Dash.

Tacony Academy Charter High School and the Gift of Life Donor Program teamed up on Friday for a baseball game in memory of Matthew Coll.

Matthew was a popular Tacony Academy Lion (class of 2018) who played left field and did some pitching for the baseball team.

“He was a blast to have here,” said coach Joel Cecchini. “He gave it his all, 100 percent. It was a real joy to have him out here.”

Tragically, Matthew died in February 2022, two weeks after being involved in a car accident at Verree Road and Bloomfield Avenue. Matthew, 22, was a passenger in a car that police said was speeding on northbound Verree when it hit another car that was traveling on southbound Verree and making a left onto Bloomfield. The police investigation continues.

Matthew, who lived in Fox Chase, is survived by his parents, Mike and Colleen, two sisters and two brothers. A brother, Thomas, was also a passenger in the accident and suffered serious injuries, but has recovered.

Matthew was an organ donor, and his kidneys and liver were donated to people in need while his lungs, brain and tissue went to research.

“Matt just happened to be their miracle,” said his mom, who also urges everyone – especially young people – to wear seatbelts.

The game took place at American Legion Playground, across the street from Tacony Academy. The opponent was W.B. Saul, and both teams were so committed to the game that they played even though schools were closed for a Muslim holiday.

Saul also had a donor angle to the game. Last September, student Nicolas Elizalde was shot to death after a football practice at Roxborough High School. Nicolas’ corneas were donated after his death.

As for Friday’s baseball game, it was a classic. Tacony Academy won it for Matthew, scoring eight runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 19-18 victory.

The game took place during National Donate Life Month. Each player on both teams wore jerseys featuring No. 33 – Matthew’s number – and the Gift of Life logo. Some wore bracelets that read, “Matt Coll, Always a Lion.”

Mike, Colleen and Thomas Coll each threw out ceremonial first pitches, with No. 33 printed on the balls.

Gift of Life volunteer Earl Jones, who received a heart transplant 21 years ago, set up an information table on organ and tissue donations.

“It’s nice they’re doing this,” said Mike Coll, who worked with Matthew at the Harry J. Lawall & Son prosthetics and orthotics company.

A week earlier, Matthew’s family and friends were joined by members of the Tacony Academy community for the annual Gift of Life Donor Dash outside the art museum. More than $3,000 was raised for Gift of Life by the Matthew’s Gentle Giants team – so named because Matthew was 6 feet 5.

The Coll family last Friday donated $1,600 in T-shirt sales to an athletic scholarship fund in Matthew’s memory at Tacony Academy and previously donated $1,000 to the school library, as Matthew’s favorite teacher was librarian Sheri Zachary.

“I had the same soft spot for him,” Zachary said. “We’re not supposed to have favorites, but I did.”

Tacony Academy athletic director Paul Rieser, too, has fond memories of Matthew.

“He was a funny kid. A nice, nice kid. He always popped in the office to say hi,” he said.

Rieser credited the Coll family with being strong and generous following their loss, and was proud of how his school has rallied around the Colls. The partnership among the Colls, Gift of Life and Tacony Academy will continue.

“This is good stuff,” Rieser said, surveying the field. “The No. 33 is everywhere.” ••

Donations in Matthew’s memory can be sent to the Gift of Life Donor Program, 401 N. 3rd St., Philadelphia, PA 19123 or at https://give.donordash.org/team/479808.

To become an organ and tissue donor, call 800-DONORS-1 or visit donors1.org/register.

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