Matt Clark stepped out of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Newnan on Tuesday, Aug. 27, to get his wife, Kari, some food, a blanket and pillow while she underwent her weekly cancer treatment. But Clark’s truck was nowhere to be found.
Clark, a third-generation firefighter, who had just worked a 24-hour shift at the Forsyth County Fire Department, walked around the lot, key fob in hand, until the reality of the situation became perfectly clear — his truck had been stolen.
And as crazy and difficult as the situation was, Clark says that in the moment he had to take a deep breath, keep his cool, call security and the police and get back to taking care of his wife.
"That was a tough position to be in, but it's just one of those judgment things, you weigh and balance what's most important in the moment," he said. "So I just sort of let it go and went back to taking care of her."
Kari Clark was first diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2013 just after the couple had their third child. Matt Clark said that initially, it seemed as if Kari’s cancer was quickly dealt with, but in 2016 the cancer returned and their family has been fighting it ever since.
“We've been kind of doing one treatment after the next and finally just recently this past February a treatment was engineered specifically for what she has. So we're on that and things are looking really good," Clark said. "It's still going to be kind of a hike, but things are looking good."
Throughout the process, Clark said that his wife has remained a fighter, showing toughness that you don’t often see.
"You hear about mental toughness all the time, mind over matter, and she in some ways is the embodiment of that," he said. "She's always got a positive outlook, and she's a fighter.
Clark said that authorities still aren’t sure exactly who stole the truck, but the loss has been a huge setback for their family.
Beyond the sheer expense and hardship of losing his truck, which Clark called a “bullet-proof diesel” that was basically part of the family, thieves made off with loads of personal and sentimental items including Kari’s medicines and blankets for treatment, Matt’s guitar and several heavy-duty knives, including one his father carried as a firefighter.
"I can only assume that not only is the truck gone or scrapped or hidden ... the contents have already been pawned or sold and it's just gone," Clark said. "All that went down the road with my truck, so it's gone. We had to really scramble and rebuild what we lost there."
Just like how he took a deep breath and focused on what was really important when the truck was stolen, Clark says they have had to just let the stolen stuff go, to move on with their busy lives.
"I'm not mad," he said. "I've let go of everything, it's gone and I've let it go. It's not going to help me or Kari to be upset or bitter."
But the Clark family isn’t going to have to recover from the loss alone. In the week since Matt’s truck was stolen, more than $12,480 had been raised by a GoFundMe campaign created by friends of the Clark family.
Over the past week, donations ranging from $10 to $2,000 have come in from hundreds of donors all over the state and country.
In less than 24 hours, the campaign surpassed its initial goal of $5,000 and was pushed forward to $25,000 to help the family recover some of the cost of the truck and relieve some medical bills that they have been dealing with.
“The outpouring of support for this beautiful family has been nothing short of a miracle and more of a blessing than we could have imagined,” an update to the GoFundMe campaign stated last week.
On Wednesday, Clark echoed that sentiment saying that his family has been totally humbled by the community support. As a couple, he said that he and his wife have a hard time accepting charity, but friends and family assure them that it is their time to get help and support from the community.
"It's humbling, it's a blessing,” he said. "Just a huge, huge relief — they have no idea the medical expenses and all … that we're going to put behind us and not have hanging over our head anymore."
For more information on how to assist the Clark family, visit the GoFundMe campaign at www.gofundme.com/f/matt-and-kari-clark.