For as long as 37-year-old Matt Henry can recall, whenever asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, his answer remained, “I want to be a husband and a dad.”
While Matt Henry was born near the beach in SoCal then transplanted to Arizona in grade-school, the ocean still called him.
Graduating Northern Arizona University (NAU), he married his high-school sweetheart, Christy, and the two followed the ocean’s call. He took a management job in San Diego, while Christy Henry pursued her career in teaching. They immediately fell in love with the classic Southern-California beach-town vibe of Imperial Beach.
In 2007, he heard another call: to seminary. Soon after, Matt Henry began working for East Lake Church, and jumped on board as Lead Pastor of their new IB location. His ministry thrived as did his family. Between births and adoptions, he and Christy have six-children under age eight, four boys and two girls. One daughter was born in the car three blocks from home, in route to the hospital. She can really say she is an I.B. native when she grows-up.
And Matt Henry plans to see that day. His wave of success suddenly crashed when he collapsed and doctors discovered a brain tumor. After emergency surgery his symptoms persisted, revealing a portion of tumor that was inoperable. Unable to work, Matt passed on the leadership of the church.
But he could not bail on his drive to serve his community and developed the on-line personality, #imperialbeachdad. He may be on TV with his clean-water surfing video, backstage with Switchfoot at the broam in Encinitas, on the news for his chalk-art, or orchestrating the I.B. Fire Department’s Demolition Derby Car. The I.B. Fire Department took second place at Del Mar Fair Demolition Derby, raising over $10,000 for the Burn Institute.
He recently co-hosted an exclusive Baywatch Movie Premier with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, after he won the “Rock the GQ Cover” contest with his epic brain-cancer awareness themed design. You can read about Matt Henry in the July 2017 issue of GQ magazine – right next to older look-a-like Brad Pitt on page 8.
Not formidable like the Rock, Matt Henry’s iconic SoCal surfer long blond-hair and blue-eyed features are both dynamic and approachable; but the two had quests in common. The Rock’s media team interviewed Matt Henry in his #bucketlisttreehouse, where they shared the Rock’s quest as a “chivalrous gentleman,” and Matt’s quest for #bucketlistliving – “saying yes to adventure and leaving everyone better than you found them.”
Matt Henry became IB’s #ChoreNinja” after Firefighter Moe warned of red-tagging homes with alley overgrowth. Matt Henry put out a quick video asking folks to meet him in a nearby alley. He wiped-out an entire block of unpaved alley weeds with hand tools by himself. Sadly, no one else showed up. But Matt Henry’s mojo is to inspire. His video started a viral “chore-ninja” city wide alley clean-up for the elderly, disabled, and otherwise unaware neighbors. I.B. City Council-member, Mark West, made sure City Manager, Andy Hall, saw the community spirit splashing over I.B. neighborhoods. Hall chimed that he was “blown away” and would happily clean alleys himself!
Matt Henry can often be found designing large chalk street-art murals depicting the beauty of an ocean disrupted by sewage. He brings clean water awareness through his chalk art, that comes and goes with the tides, because he believes the problem can too. (Visit the Media for sewage signs and links to copy and paste prewritten emails to legislators).
The brain tumor causes baffling erratic symptoms that can mimic Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), making it impossible for him to have a regular job. He has days where he can barely get up. And days where he becomes #ChoreNinja. Surfers are used to changing conditions and every once-in a-while, a wipeout miraculously positions one perfectly for the next set. Like he wanted since he was a child, Matt Henry gets to be a dad, and whenever the surf calls, his board and beach cruiser are standing by.
At his core, he sees his life purpose as building healthy community. If there is one word to describe Matt Henry, it is inspirational. He seems to leave a wake of pixie dust, or maybe its chalk dust, that people want to ride along with. Myself included.
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