When Matt Hudson welcomed his second son into the world on November 1, 2010, he never imagined the enduring legacy the tiny child would inspire.
Harrison Everett Hudson was born with severe medical needs, primarily issues with muscle development. During the 16 weeks after Harrison’s birth, Hudson and his wife, Melissa, traveled back and forth between three hospitals in two states, desperate to find help for their son. Team after team of medical professionals screened him for every possible genetic condition, yet no one could diagnose exactly what was wrong. Ultimately, Harrison’s medical issues were classified as a “genetic anomaly.”
The mysterious illness would eventually take Harrison’s life. On April 4, 2011, the Hudsons lost their baby boy. He was just 5 months old.
The experience left the couple drained, both emotionally and financially, yet they discovered the power of community as countless people rallied to give them the support they needed during the most difficult time of their lives. Motivated by the generosity of spirit their son inspired, they vowed to provide that same support to other families and founded Hope from Harrison, a nonprofit dedicated to raising resources, awareness, and hope for children with critical medical needs.
“There are those moments when the dark and the light come together,” says Hudson of the work he and his wife do through Hope from Harrison. He tells the story of the first child the organization helped—a little boy named Ryland. “The doctors said Ryland would not live past the age of 1,” recalls Hudson. “Now I watch him on Facebook. He’s 12 and doing great.” Money raised from Hope from Harrison helped Ryland’s family update their home with changes like replacing the carpet with hardwood floors so Ryland could more easily get around with his ventilator.
Children like Ryland require round-the-clock care, and the expense to their families is astronomical, even with medical insurance. “At the time of Harrison’s death, Melissa and I were solely responsible for his 24-hour medical care because we had exhausted the allotted in-home nursing care benefits offered through our medical insurance,” says Hudson. “We had applied for Medicaid and were put in the typical 30- to 45-day waiting period for approval. It was not logistically possible to hold down jobs, and the intensive 24-hour medical care was physically and mentally exhausting.”
Since its inception, Hope from Harrison has given more than $300,000 to families in need. Funds are raised through online donations, private donors, and at West Palm Beach’s SunFest, where the Hudsons and volunteers run a beer concession during the music festival each year. This past year’s SunFest funds were allocated to help Jaxx, a 3-year-old boy from Lake Worth who has Möbius syndrome, a rare neurological disorder. Jaxx is being raised by a single mom, who also has a 10-year-old son and had to give up her job to provide full-time care for Jaxx.
Hudson understands that sacrifice. When Harrison was born, he gave up his landscape contracting business in Texas to move to Palm Beach County in 2011 to be closer to Melissa’s family for support, and the family now resides in Abacoa. In 2017, Hudson was finally able to recapture his dream of owning a landscape architecture firm, M. Hudson Design. “I like being outside and shaping spaces and creating environments that inspire people,” says Hudson, who has been passionate about landscape design since his college years at the University of Georgia. The Jupiter-based firm creates outdoor environments including landscaping, irrigation, hardscapes, lighting, pools, and outdoor living spaces.
Hudson is reminded daily how lucky he is to work in a field he loves, to be able to help families in crisis, and to have a healthy, happy family of his own. Harrison’s older brother, Maxwell, is now 14, and Harper, Harrison’s younger sister who never got the chance to meet him, is 8. Gratefulness is a lesson Hudson says he learned from Harrison. “When someone asks me about Harrison Everett Hudson and his story, this is what I know to be true: Harrison was a spirit among our own, here to radiate light, love, possibilities, and all things good,” says Hudson. “So when you think of Harrison, his story, and our family, please honor him by seeing these things in yourself, your neighbor, and this world.”