Sean’s Day to raise funds for foundation


The third fundraiser honors the memories of Sean Michael Matthews and Neil Schmidt, former superintendent of the local school district.

By Lori Allen / Special to The Malibu Times

Malibu honors the memories of two people at a special fundraiser called “Sean’s Day.” This event remembers Sean Michael Matthews, a local child who died in a drowning accident in 1997, and former Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Neil Schmidt, who reportedly died from a heart attack brought on by a bee sting last winter. Not only will the event commemorate Sean and Schmidt, but it will also feature paintings created by Sean’s uncle, J. Patrick Matthews.

“Sean’s Day” is the third fundraiser held to raise money for the Sean Michael Matthews Foundation (Sean’s Fund). This year, about 150 to 200 people are expected to attend and raise even more money for the fund. Sean’s Fund is a nonprofit agency administrated by the California Community Foundation, one of the largest and most active philanthropic organizations in Southern California that supports nonprofit organizations and public institutions by providing funding for many different types of services in the community.

So far money earned from Sean’s Fund has been distributed over the last seven years to the Sean Matthews Children’s Selection at the Malibu Public Library, Malibu Methodist Church, local elementary schools, as well as providing $25,000 worth of academic scholarships for students at Malibu High School and Malibu Methodist Nursery School. The first two fundraisers set up to remember Sean took place in 1998 and 1999. Both events featured golf tournaments, safety fairs and prayer services during the day and dinner/auctions in the evenings.

“My hope for this event is that people will enjoy looking at and, hopefully, buying beautiful art, talking to an amazing and engaging artist, remembering two wonderful people, being around caring people at a spectacular location with great food and raising money for a good cause,” Sean’s father, Michael Matthews, said in a recent interview.

Matthews, former principal at Malibu High School, now serves as assistant superintendent for the SMMUSD.

Sean’s mother, Kelley Didion, teaches fifth grade at Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School.

SMMUSD Board member Kathy Wisnicki volunteers her time in helping the Matthews family organize the event. She described her memories of Sean as being very special. He loved to read books and attend children’s story hour at the Malibu Library with his family and friends. Prior to his death, Sean attended preschool with Wisnicki’s daughter at Malibu Methodist Nursery School.

“I became involved because my best friends lost a child who we all loved,” Wisnicki said. “We were trying to establish an event that would keep his memory alive and do some good in the community. Sean had a very charismatic personality and was a fun loving little boy.”

Wisnicki said she looks forward to attending the event to honor her young friend and the Malibu educator, who was adored by many students in the area. “It is going to be a great night with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and artwork.”

Neil Schmidt and his family were friendly with the Matthews family. Matthews said his friend and youngest son formed a special relationship in a few short years.

“We spent many evenings at the Schmidts, and they would often baby sit Sean and his older brother Ryan,” Matthews said. “Sean loved being around Neil’s family, but Neil (a former kindergarten teacher) had a special way with Sean, and Sean loved him. [They] both loved to smile and laugh and had a non-egotistical style that people loved to be around and tended to follow.”

The Schmidt family has set up the Neil Schmidt Memorial Fund, which donates proceeds to the Boys and Girls Club and other charitable organizations.

Former architect turned painter Patrick Matthews once painted a beautiful scene of his late nephew on the beach looking out at the ocean. The picture still hangs in the Matthews’ home. Other paintings featuring Patrick Matthews’ signature vast landscapes will be on display and auctioned at the event.

“My brother Pat has had an unbelievable transition from a highly successful architect in Little Rock, Arkansas who painted for a hobby to a professional painter who is one of the hottest artists in Santa Fe, New Mexico,” Mike Matthews said. “I have so much admiration for his passion and drive, and he loves what he does.”

“Sean’s Day” is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Sunset Restaurant and Beach Bar, located at 6800 Westward Beach Road on April 30. More information and tickets can be obtained by visiting the Web site,

More about Patrick Williams can be obtained at the Web site,, or at