Matt and Laurel Cluthe prepare to take a family road trip from Kansas City to watch a Houston Astros game at Minute Maid Park. The city and team carry many memories for the couple. Both are native Houstonians and diehard Astros fans. From attending games as children with their families, to making matching Astros hats during one of their first dates, to bringing their recently adopted baby girl to spring training, this team has been a thread in both of their stories.
As they make the drive, there’s even greater meaning to this trip as they are traveling for Lou Gehrig Day. While the Astros has been a common thread, another that is woven into Matt and Laurel’s story is ALS.
As a child, Matt’s father knew how to make a lot of fun out of little things for him and his three siblings. On hot summer days they’d drive to Galveston at the crack of dawn to spend the morning and afternoon playing on the beach and grilling hotdogs on their little hibachi. As the sun would set, his parents would drive home with their four very tired and happy children in the back seat.
More memories flooded to Matt as he shared his dad’s story. “He loved listening to music full blast, Matt shared with a chuckle, “classical music specifically, and he would conduct in the living room.” His father’s love of music passed through to Matt along with his love of baseball. Matt reminisced about the afternoons his dad would teach him to throw a baseball or hit with a bat and their thrilling nights together at the Astro Dome.
In the early 2000’s, Matt’s father started to notice issues with his dexterity in his hands, but he thought it was just carpal tunnel or arthritis. But suspicion grew of a more serious issue, and he pursued evaluations from a series of doctors. In October 2003, they received the unspeakable news—Matt’s father was living with ALS. His disease progressed very aggressively and he passed just six months later in April 2004.
“I think it made the four of us really look in the mirror and take stock of where we were, where we want to be, and I think it brought us all closer together,” Matt Cluthe
Though his father was taken from this world so tragically by ALS, some of their last moments together are Matt’s favorite. He smiled as he remembered the last Christmas of 2003 with his dad. As the family was all together, he found the energy to talk, eat, and hold his precious grandkids. “It was remarkable,” Matt smiled.
A couple of years after his dad had passed, Matt moved back Houston to finish school. Laurel, who had just finished her undergrad at music school, decided to take a class to stay busy. The two met in this class.
One day, he reached out to Laurel to get some advice for his band, and they’ve been together ever since. Right after they married, they moved to Waco, and later to Dallas, Portland, and Kansas City where they’ve resided for the last six years.
Soon after moving to Kansas City, the couple pursued growing their family through adoption. The two knew that it could be years before their family could grow, but they knew the time would come when it was right.
One fateful day, while Laurel was on a mission trip in New York and Matt at home, they both received an email from the agency. A birth mom was seeking a loving couple to adopt her baby girl, and she was living with ALS.
Immediately, Matt and Laurel felt a tug in their hearts before even finishing the email that they’d like to submit their profile. They were among twelve other families that responded. Out of them all, the birth mom chose Matt and Laurel without knowing ALS was already a thread in their story.
Because her situation was so unique, the couple met her in her home, which is unusual for the typical adoption process. One of the birth mom’s first questions for the couple was ‘What is your experience with ALS?’
Matt shared the story of his father and all the walls fell. “It was lots of tears and some joy. It just felt like it was meant to be… I felt like God was in it at times,” Laurel shared.
Laurel noted that through the whole process the priority was the birth mom and her family. No matter what happened, they were honored to be a part of this woman’s legacy. They became a team of three looking forward to this little baby girl coming into the world. Matt and Laurel attended doctors’ visits with the birth mom, not only for her unborn child, but also appointments to address her disease progression.
“Life is so precious, as this life was growing inside of her, her body was deteriorating…there’s no language around when someone offers you their legacy to carry on through their child. It’s extremely humbling and a huge honor.” – Laurel Cluthe
The birth mom not only was thinking of a future for her daughter but also the future of other people who would be diagnosed with ALS. When asked by a researcher if she’d be willing to donate her placenta for ALS research, there was no hesitation in her answer, ‘Yes’. Laurel and Matt were in the room when that discussion happened, and they shared that the moment was extremely powerful.
While she is the twentieth medically documented woman to be pregnant with ALS, she was the first to donate her placenta and related tissue for ALS research. Not only would this woman’s legacy live on in her precious daughter, but also in the tissue she donated to more than 8 academic research facilities across the world.
Earlier this year, a healthy girl was born, a testament to the strength of her birth mother and the team of doctors supporting her development. Her birth mom had three precious weeks to cherish and hold her sweet baby before she passed from ALS. She went peacefully knowing her baby would be raised by a family that would cherish and honor her ALS story.
Matt and Laurel feel like they combined their families in a lot of ways. The adoption is very open, and they’re still in close contact with the birth mom’s family and friends. Laurel smiled as she talked about all of the sets of grandparents that are already spoiling their baby girl. Matt and Laurel look forward to the day she is old enough to hear the story of her birth mother and the sacrifices she made to bring her into the world and support the search for a cure for ALS.
Today their baby is just over 5 months old. Already she’s been introduced to her adoptive parents’ love of Houston and the Astros. At just two months old, they brought her to spring training and she has a picture next to the 2022 World Series trophy. In just a couple of days, they’ll be back again at Minute Maid Park for Lou Gehrig Day.
As they cheer for the Astros, they’ll honor and remember the stories of those who have passed from ALS before them: Lou Gehrig the ‘iron man’ who forever changed baseball, Matt’s amazing father, and their selfless baby girl’s mother whose legacy will live on in more ways than one.
The ALS Association is excited to celebrate the third annual Lou Gehrig Day with MLB. Both the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers will celebrate at their home games on Friday, June 2. We hope you join us as we celebrate being One Team 4 ALS!