Pay it forward: Cardinal Gibbons students, community encouraged to #LiveLikeMattFio By Chloe Palmer ʼ24
Kristin Hanke

As what would be the 40th birthday of late Cardinal Gibbons alumnus Matthew Fiorello ʼ00 approaches on Sunday, September 18, Cardinal Gibbons students are invited to participate in a “Pay It Forward Day” in his memory.  

Fiorello passed away following a plane crash on March 8, 2019. He was a lawyer in south Florida, the husband of Rachel Fiorello, and the father of their two children, London and Arden, who were only five and two at the time of the crash. 

Fiorello’s wife, Rachel, explained what a caring, positive, and selfless person her husband was. “He was the kindest person I’ve ever met. He would’ve done anything for anybody,” she said. The two would often pay for people behind them at Starbucks, and Rachel shared the story of how Matt, when they were dating, tipped a waitress at a different table $20 without hesitation when they overheard how the previous customers left without tipping. These are only a few of their many acts of kindness.

The past few years have been a very difficult time for Rachel and her family, and being kind always gives them a reason to smile. “After Matt's death, I had no idea how I was going to keep going when we had an entire lifetime left of big plans and lots of memories to create... It wasn't fair that such a good person could have this beautiful life just ripped away from them,” Rachel said. “I made a promise that I would keep him alive any way I could for as long as I am here.”

So, in honor of his memory, every year, mostly around March and September, she and her kids do random acts of kindness for people, and spread the word to keep paying it forward. She asks people to post their acts of kindness, in Matt’s name, on social media with the words #livelikemattfio, and tag her as well @rbackorello. 

Matt was a wrestler at Cardinal Gibbons, and he and his wife have been longtime friends with CGHS English teacher Mrs. Cloyd, who helped share their story with students, faculty, and staff by passing out “kindness cards.” 

The goal Rachel wants to achieve is “to make people smile, show people kindness, and have people also realize life is short. We need a lot more of that in this world and it makes me so happy to know that is happening, even though on a small scale, all because of Matt.” 

Anyone is able to participate all around the world. Even someone from India posted a kindness act in Matt’s name.  Cardinal Gibbons students can live out the school’s and Archdiocese of Miami’s “We Are One Body” theme by coming together through acts of kindness, and helping fulfill Rachel’s promise. 

Rachel also created a podcast featuring “love stories to help others appreciate the loves they have, had, or will have.”