Sixers reward Washington Township students with tickets following touching gesture to teacher


Washington Township High School, the largest high school in Gloucester County, N.J., is home to more than 2,200 students, grades 9-12. It offers over 25 AP classes, 31 varsity sports and 42 clubs/activities. (Matt Rappa/Sports Talk Philly)

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

The Philadelphia 76ers rewarded one Washington Township High School junior health class with tickets on Friday, following a touching gesture they made to their teacher, Matt Groark, and his wife, Kristin, after learning of tragic news in the family.

Groark, who has taught health, physical education and driver's education in the district since 2003, learned on Jan. 31 that he and his wife suffered a miscarriage, their fifth over the last six years.

Given the close bond that Groark and his students share, it was no secret to them that he loves the Sixers. So, his students sought to lift Groark's spirits by pitching in to purchase his family tickets for the Sixers' March 13 matchup against the Indiana Pacers.

"My students let me get upset and let me do what I had to do to get through those first few days," said Groark, who missed a week of work after hearing the devastating news. "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. 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."

"Their actions speak for this entire school -  the students, the staff, the administration, my health and physical education department – everyone has been so incredible.”


Soon after the students provided Groark with their gift and the video of his reaction went viral on social media, the story quickly gained the attention of many: students, parents, alumni, community members, the media, and what turned out to be the Sixers organization itself two days later. Without hesitation, the Sixers rewarded the students' thoughtful efforts by giving them tickets of their own, thus allowing them to join Groark and his wife at the game, according to the district's press release.

The Sixers provided the class with 30 tickets, enough for each of the 22 students and accompanying chaperones to attend, per Groark, who shared the news to his second-period class on Friday.

"It’s rewarding to work in a profession that can [provide] such a positive effect on people’s lives during times of need," said Sixers Vice President of Finance and CFO, Andy Speiser.

While breaking the news to his students, Groak said the team's gesture "meant so much" to him and his wife.

“I cried when you guys gifted me those tickets, and my wife cried when she saw the video of your gesture,” Groark told his students.  “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.  I am so thankful to the 76ers for reaching out, and I am so excited that we will get to enjoy the game together. It should be a great night.”

Through times of difficultly, especially given the recent news regarding the safety of public schools, efforts like these are hard to ignore and appreciate.

“We saw how much Mr. Groark was hurting, and we wanted to do something. We knew he loved the Sixers.” one of Groark's students said. 

"I think this proves that even through tough times, everyone can come together, and people will be there for each other,” another student put it.

Matt and Kristin are parents of two boys, a 3-1/2-year-old, Aidric, and a 2-year-old, Nash.

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