A recording studio in Operation Breakthrough’s soon-to-debut Ignition Lab on Troost Avenue will pay tribute to Mathew George after fans, friends and family of the late podcast host made more than $10,000 in donations in his name.
“I didn’t even realize how many people Mathew affected or was friends with,” said Mary Ann George, mother of the Liberty High School graduate and nationally known co-host of the “She Rates Dogs: The Podcast.”
“I’ve just had so many people say that he was a best friend to them or how he made them feel so comfortable. … Many of them had never even met him in person, but they shared how much he meant to them.”
Mathew George, 26, was killed in a hit-and-run incident July 17 in Los Angeles.
His mother encouraged the public to donate in his honor Operation Breakthrough or GLSEN, with her online post going viral among fans of the podcast star, Twitter comedian and weekly online book club host. Their support — and stories about Mathew — have been comforting, even when just expressed through social media, she said.
Donations to Operation Breakthrough, an early childhood education center on Kansas City’s east side, have come from all across the country, said Mary Esselman, president and CEO of Operation Breakthrough.
“A day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t seen donations [in Mathew’s name] coming in,” Esselman said. “He obviously had a broad audience of people who felt like they related to him. We’ve seen donations from Vancouver, Portland, California and locally — just all over.”
Mary Ann George believes donations to Operation Breakthrough and GLSEN would best honor Mathew because of his passion for helping underserved and marginalized communities, she said.
“My daughter, Meredith, and I were just out in LA, visiting Mathew and celebrating her birthday,” Mary Ann recalled. “… When we were there, Mathew was just really growing as a young man, and he was very concerned about the homeless population. Him and his roommate, Allie, would take them food and stuff. He’s always been so kind. Growing up in Liberty, Mathew was not aware that there were people struggling to make ends meet or lacking food. He just assumed everyone had what they needed.
“I think he’d be really happy about the donations because it helps our community and has a lasting effect,” she continued, referencing Operation Breakthrough and its work helping homeless and at-risk children. “I thought [the recording studio] was a fantastic idea — that’s so much of who Mathew was. So many kids don’t have access to those resources, so I think it’s fantastic that they will be able to learn.”
Along with the recording studio, donations in Mathew’s name are expected to benefit the non-profit’s food pantry, Esselman said, noting the pantry allows about 450 families to receive food and other items that they are unable to buy with food stamps.
Operation Breakthrough’s Ignition Lab with the tribute is expected to open in September.
Click here to donate to Operation Breakthrough.
Donations to the organization GLSEN resonated because of its work to end discrimation of sexual orientation and gender identity, and because it encourages LGBTQ+ awareness in K-12 schools, Mary Ann said. On the “She Rates Dogs” podcast and through his Twitter page, Mathew often shared his dating stories and everyday experiences as a gay man.
In a December 2020 interview with Shoutout Arizona, Mathew discussed his journey coming out as gay during his college days at Arizona State University, from which he graduated in 2017. Toward the end of college, he became more open talking about his experiences and realized people enjoyed hearing the stories, he said.
“Growing up and being in the closet, I never knew anyone or heard about anyone who had similar experiences and fears that I had,” he said during the interview. “My hopes for my Twitter account and She Rates Dogs the Podcast is to share my stories and make LGBTQ+ people all across the world feel like they’re not alone.”
Mathew’s book club is continuing on in his honor, according to the club’s Twitter page. As for the “She Rates Dogs” podcast, his close friend and co-host Michaela Okland wrote on Twitter that the duo had one episode remaining, recorded before his passing; but she is unsure when it will be released.
“I know in years to come, I’ll feel so lucky that there’s so many recordings of Mat’s laugh to revisit,” Okland wrote. “… I think you all knew within 10 seconds of listening to him, how vibrant, loving and accepting Mat George is. This community made him so happy. Your words and support made him so happy.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.