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Rockford man using his journey as an amputee to help others adjust to their new lives

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Inspiring 815 Ray Matlock

ROCKFORD (WREX) — Ray Matlock's story begins in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

A young boy from the south, his family moved to Rockford making it Matlock's home for more than 50 years.

"I love Rockford. Rockford has always been a great place to live and a good place to raise a family," Matlock said.

While growing up in the Forest City, Matlock's love and talent for basketball also got bigger.

The Jefferson High School alum was set to actually make a return to his home state, set to play ball for Henderson State in Arkansas.

However, the dream of college basketball never happened after Matlock received a cancer diagnosis.

"I discovered a lump in my leg and found out it was a milignant tumor," Matlock said.

"My option was to have them amputate the leg above the knee to make sure they removed all the cancer."

While Matlock was able to beat cancer, it came at the cost of putting his basketball playing goals on the sideline.

Temporarily.

He soon came across an opportunity to play while also being around people going through the same journey he was as an amputee.

"John Beck, god rest his soul, was coaching the Rockford Chariots at the time and said would you like to play," Matlock said.

Matlock (known as Sugar Ray on the court) has rocked a Rockford Chariots jersey for the last 30 years.

He's won multiple MVP awards with the league, but more important than the accolades are the bonds he's built with his teammates over the years.

"A lot of good friends. I've been in many of their weddings," Matlock said.

"To this day some of my best friends are in wheelchairs."

One of those friends is Bob McGhee.

McGhee and Matlock's bond didn't start on the basketball court like all the others.

It began in the hospital after McGhee was run over by a garbage truck, causing him to loose his left leg.

"He came to see me in the hospital right after I lost my leg. It's just the kind of guy he is. To help others when they go through the same thing he went through," McGhee said.

"Ray's just a salt of the Earth kind of guy. He's just the kind of guy everyone likes."

McGhee isn't the only one Matlock has visited.

He's talked with people across the country to help them integrate to their new lives.

It continues today despite all of the trauma Matlock has faced in his life.

He lost his leg, has battled cancer multiple times include a bout with kidney cancer today, and lost his first wife to cancer.

Despite all of this, Matlock keeps a positive outlook and wants to spread it to everyone he meets.

Optimism deep rooted in fate.

"You gotta have faith. I live by faith. Life is good man. It's just up to you to make the best of it," Matlock said.

If you or anyone you know is making an effort to help others in our community, you can fill out a nomination form here or you can reach out to eleake@wrex.com.

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at eleake@wrex.com or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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