As a gesture of kindness, a group of high school students bought Philadelphia 76ers tickets for their teacher and his wife, Kristin, after they suffered a tragic personal loss.
But what the students at Washington Township High School in New Jersey didn't realize was that their generosity would soon come full circle.
Matt Groark, who teaches health and physical education, announced to the class of 22 on Friday that they would all be joining him and his wife at the basketball game March 13 when the 76ers take on the Indiana Pacers, KYW-TV reported.
On Jan. 31, Matt and his wife suffered the loss of an unborn child.
“My wife and I have had seven pregnancies over the past six years, five miscarriages, and our world kinda crashed again on Jan. 31,” Matt, who was out for a week after the loss, said. "My students let me get upset and let me do what I had to do to get through those first few days."
Matt's second-period class could see how painful the loss was so they came up with a plan to help lift his spirits.
“We saw how much Mr. Groark was hurting, and we wanted to do something,” student Anhtina Ho said. “We knew he loved the Sixers.”
The students got the word out and quickly collected enough money to buy the tickets for their teacher who is a die-hard Sixers fan.
“Once Tina and I came up with the idea to buy him tickets, money just came flying from everywhere,” Evan Chu said. “I think this proves that even through tough times everyone can come together, and people will be there for each other.”
Then they took to social media to share the exciting news.
"Last month, our gym teacher’s wife had her 5th miscarriage 4 months into her pregnancy. After seeing how devasted he was, our class decided to pitch in for Sixers tix for him and his wife to show our gratitude. Enjoy the game, Mr. Groark :-)!! You and your wife deserve it ❤️"
The students' gift moved their teacher, but it was their words of compassion that impressed him most.
"Several weeks went by and then they surprised me with those tickets. What they wrote was just so heartfelt and kind. To see what they did as 16, 17-year-olds in the world that we are living in, to see young adults show that kind of compassion, as a parent, was pretty amazing to be a part of," Matt said. "My story is what it is, and there are people out there who have dealt with the same thing, if not worse, but to have these kids keep supporting me — they are why I can keep coming to school."
How did the students get tickets?
Ho and Chu shared Matt's reaction to his gift on various social media platforms.
Soon the Sixers organization found out what the students had done and they decided to invite the entire class to the game.
"I cried when you guys gifted me those tickets, and my wife cried when she saw the video of your gesture,” Matt said. “What you guys did meant so much to us, and a lot of people reached out to me after hearing about it. It is pretty cool that you are guys are responsible for uplifting this community and showing how caring Washington Township is and how great teenagers can be."
The Sixers gave the class 30 tickets, enough for all the students and some chaperones to attend. Someone has also offered up a balcony suite for some of the chaperones, according to Sports Talk Philly.
"I am so thankful to the Sixers for reaching out, and I am so excited that we will get to enjoy the game together. It should be a great night,” he added.
Matt and Kristin have two toddler sons.