Matthew Fernandez is a seventeen-year-old student from Los Angeles who enjoys gloving to electronic music. An art form that has become popular at raves, gloving involves strategic hand movements accompanied by fingertip LED lights, essentially a "dance of the hands".
Yet Matthew is different from the rest of the thousands of glovers across the nation in a way that may make it harder for him to practice the art form. Matthew is paraplegic and deals with Cerebral Palsy, a condition that causes problems with muscle coordination and movement. However, gloving has changed his life for the better.
One day, his older brother Mike came across Matthew attempting whips and other gloving tricks. Mike was an original founder of a famous glover team, Puppet Masters [PM]. The two started practicing together, and after just a couple months, something amazing happened.
Matthew's family and doctors realized that gloving had increased the mobility in his arms and helped him build finger dexterity. What was previously thought of as just a dance had become an essential physical and emotional therapy.
Their excitement was so great that Matthew and his family contacted the glove manufacturer, EmazingLights, and shared their good news and gratitude. EmazingLights responded with an invitation to tour their headquarters, and when they arrived, CEO Brian Lim gave Matthew a free pair of gloves and snapped a photo together for social media.
What a wonderful story... Yet that was only the beginning.
After learning that Matthew's mobility had increased ten-fold, Lim and his team at EmazingLights were astonished by the potential of gloving for helping medical conditions like Cerebral Palsy. When Lim met Matthew, he instantly knew that it was his mission as the leading LED flow arts distributor to help other people that have disabilities.
Thus, EmazingLights launched the Glove 4 Glove initiative. For every Chroma24 glove set sold, EmazingLights will donate another pair of Chroma24s to various charities and get these LED gloves into the hands of people in need, whether they have cerebral palsy, are paraplegic, or who struggle with mental disorders - the possibilities are endless.
I wanted to hear Lim's side of the story, so I sat down with the company leader and Shark Tank winner to understand the full scope of Glove 4 Glove.
"There was one important thing in my life that convinced me to quit my full time job and pursue EmazingLights full time.
When I was selling lights out of the trunk of my car, the moment that I would bring the lights out for a meetup, it was like Christmas morning for the customer. The glover's eyes would just light up in excitment over the product. They were so excited to get new gloves.
To be able to bring that tremendous excitement, that feeling, that joy to hundreds and hundreds of people, by meeting up in In N Out parking lots and selling gloves - that had a huge effect on me.
Over the years, as EmazingLights and [sister company] iHeartRaves have gotten bigger, I've always wanted to create a charity or program to give back to the community that has made us. It's not like we're here because we have been serving a generic population, like most companies. We're very loyal and faithful to the EDM crowd. But I wondered, what should we do to give back? I didn't want to do something that someone else is already doing, and how do I get my following to get behind it? You know, we could do a breast cancer awareness, or donate to dog shelters or stuff like that, but that doesn't really excite our crowd.
The moment that I was introduced to Matthew and I saw how far he came, how far he has improved medically from gloving, I saw the excitement in his eye. And it really brought me back to when I was selling gloves from the trunk of my car; it just clicked right there. I was like, we need to do a program that gets gloves into the hands of these folks that are less fortunate, disabled, whatever you want to call it. We need to get these gloves in their hands for free, and hopefully it will make a big impact in their lives.
So, the Glove 4 Glove program was born. We started with just the Chroma 24, so for any Chroma 24 glove set that was sold, we would donate a second pair to various charities. Today we are at about 1000 glove sets given out in the past 4 months. These glove sets are not cheap ones. But it's the right thing to do and it helps spread gloving which is another great benefit of it. But really, the medical benefits of gloving came out of left field for us, 'cause we're glovers and we just enjoy the art [laughs]. We wanted to create better products for ourselves, but the medical side really, really changed things for us. That's why we're trying to get more awareness around the Glove 4 Glove program, so that we can build it up and donate even more. My goal is to donate tens of thousands of sets in the year 2016.
There are medical benefits to gloving that have really affected these other people's lives. Whether you have cerebral palsy, or you're paraplegic or you're deaf or have Lyme disease, gloving is getting people through a lot of tough times in their lives. We're just trying to highlight that with the Glove4Glove program."
After being featured on EmazingLights's social media channels, Matthew received a lot of positive feedback at school. Though not very social before, he was approached with warm greetings from the ravers at his school who had seen his photo, and treated "like a superstar". Not only did gloving help Matthew improve in many ways, but he was inspired to spread the word by donating gloves to other classmates and people with disabilities.
Matthew was also featured on Univision, the American Spanish language network on TV.
Truly, the Glove 4 Glove initiative would never have been founded if Matthew hadn't picked up gloving on his own. Creating light from darkness, EmazingLights' charity is dedicated to carrying out Matthew's vision by donating glove sets all over the world.
To read more about Glove 4 Glove, visit the website here.
Follow Matthew on Instagram at @emazingmatthew.