Through triumph or tragedy, strong bond lifts family


Pam and Dave Gillespie, children Jan Gillespie and Alan Gillespie and granddaughters Katie Matthews, Mariah Gillespie and Isabel Alvarez take a much-needed rest aboard a recent cruise.

Photo courtesy of Pam Gillespie

Grandparents Pam and Dave Gillespie of Palm Bay have worked hard to build a close-knit family through faith, quality time and self sacrifice. The resulting safety net comforts and protects them in the wake of the February tragedy that left grandson Joey Matthews in a vegetative state after being hit by a car.

The family is hosting a rally and fundraiser for him from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 9 at County Line Saloon, 4650 W. New Haven Ave. in West Melbourne. A car and bike show, bounce houses, bake sale and live band will raise spirits as well as funds.

“God didn’t promise us a rose garden, but he promised us that through eternity he’s building for our family treasures in heaven that we can’t even fathom,” Pam Gillespie said. “Even though we’ve experienced trial with a severe accident with one grandchild, we praise God because he’s doing a good work, even in tragedy. There is good that will come from this.”

Miracles are already a part of the story.

After 16-year-old Joey was struck while riding his scooter and lay motionless in the street, Palm Bay Mayor William Capote and his wife approached what looked like refuse in the street and divine insight instructed him what to do next. Capote, who had chosen to travel the route for reasons unknown to him, jumped out of the car and flagged down a second vehicle before it could run over the boy in the darkness, even going as far as to say the vehicle was supernaturally held back.

The family has held bedside vigil for weeks, with time for little else. An April cruise planned long before the accident provided a chance for decompression, a sense of normalcy.

“We debated canceling it and yet we realized how much we needed it,” Gillespie said. Two of their four children and three of their seven grandchildren joined them. A dolphin encounter, snorkeling and glass-bottom boat tour above colorful sea life melted away sadness that was never far from their minds.

Grandpa was the snorkeling under-sea ringleader for 12-year old granddaughters Katie Matthews — Joey’s sister — and Mariah Gillespie, along with Isabel Alvarez, 6.

“They wore me out but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world,” Dave Gillespie said.

The family trips are a respite for the Gillespies’ stressful community service careers.

Pam Gillespie is a community relations aide for U.S. Congressman Bill Posey, often working evenings and weekends to cover public events. Dave Gillespie runs three group homes for adults with developmental delays and is also no stranger to long hours.

Despite the constant concern for Joey’s wellbeing, the family is at peace, Pam Gillespie said. Counting blessings plays a vital part in that. She echoed the closing comment on each and every email update on Joey’s progress sent out by her daughter, April Blackstone, Joey’s aunt.

“God’s got this.”

For more information, email

Rally and Fundraiser for Joey

Saturday May 9

11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

County Line Saloon

4650 W. New Haven Ave., West Melbourne