With few days left in the year, we here at Chicago-Fire.com thought it appropriate to take a look back on 10 of the Most Memorable of what turned out to be a very successful year.
As it would be difficult to rank all the instances that pulled together a fantastic 15th year, we'll be listing them chronologically over the next two weeks. Some are club-wide and as the Team Writer, others are of a more personal nature but rest assured that all were special.
Yesterday, I looked back on C.J. Brown's Ring of Fire induction. Today, I remember the amazing commitment of one Fire fan to raise money for the Foundation…
#5 – Appalachian Trail Hiker Matt Mason Attends a Road Game – June 2
A small contingent of Fire supporters traveled to the team’s game on June 2 at New England. Among them was one Matt Mason, picked up along the side of the road in Wind Gap, Penn., to attend his first Fire game of the season.
The bearded 23-year-old Fire supporter hadn’t moved or run away from home but rather was just over three months into a 2,184 mile hike of the Appalachian Trail to raise money for the Chicago Fire Foundation.
The Fruitport, Ill. Native began his hike in northern Georgia on February 29 and to that point had gone 1,287 miles in his journey with his goal all along to be close enough to New England in order to be picked up by friends driving to the match.
Picked up the day before, Mason told his friends stories of his trip as they made their way to Gillette Stadium. The next day as they entered the parking lot at Patriots Place an 30 minutes before kickoff, one friend read aloud the Fire’s starting lineup from Twitter.
The friend rattled of the team’s subs: “Tornaghi, Jumper, Videira, Paladini, Robayo, Puppo, Rolfe.”
It was that last name that got Mason excited, with him saying, “I found out Chris Rolfe was back with the Fire. I had no clue! You should have seen my face when they told me. I’ve picked up some Fire news here and there but I didn’t know that. I became a Fire supporter in 2007 and he’s always been my favorite player.”
Not only had Rolfe been back for a month and a half but he would later make his re-debut in the match for the Fire, coming on in the 69th minute of the 2-0 loss.
Though the result didn’t go the Fire’s way, it would still be a special night. After the match, Mason and friends were invited to the team hotel where they mingled with players before Fire head coach Frank Klopas spoke one-on-one with the 23-year-old hiker.
“This is a special kid,” said the Fire head coach. “Getting to meet him, I’m blown away by his drive and character. Over and over you see our supporters behind us in the stands but also finding ways to help others through charity. I’m impressed with Matt’s dedication and proud to know he’s on our side.”
Rejuvenated from the experience, the next day his friends dropped him back off at the same spot they’d found on Route 33 in Pennsylvania. As he walked back to the trail, he celebrated by doing the famous, “C.J. Brown Dance”.
Almost exactly two months later, after surviving a horrible bout of dehydration, Mason completed the hike, hitting the summit of Mount Katahdin in central Maine on August 1.
Two and a half weeks later, Mason’s achievement was honored during the Fire’s 2-1 victory over New England at Toyota Park. While he aimed to raise a dollar for each of the $2,184 miles he hiked, he ended up beating the goal by almost $300 and presented Fire President Julian Posada and Foundation Executive Director Jessica Yavitz with a check for $2,448 prior to the game.