Washington Township High School teacher Matthew Groark has been named one of South Jersey Magazine’s 2020 Men of the Year for his constant dedication to helping others.
“To be awarded something like this from South Jersey Magazine was kind of crazy,” the physical education teacher said. “It was a cool surprise and not something I would ever ask for or think I really deserve, but I can’t deny how cool it is.”
Groark and his family have experienced a lot of loss throughout the years, but they have used those times to reflect on life and find ways to give back to the community that has always been there to support them.
Groark and his wife, Kristin, spent most of their marriage trying to start a family. They experienced five miscarriages, the last being the hardest to get through at 17 weeks, and thought their fight for another baby was over. But they are now raising two healthy and loving boys: Aidric, 6, and Nash, 5.
“We were blessed and we know it, to be able to go home to our two boys,” Groark recalled. “There are families that go through similar things and don’t have kids, and your heart goes out to them.”
After their fifth loss, the Groarks realized how many people loved and supported them. The teacher’s second-period health class gave him tickets to a Sixers game in 2017, with a card thanking him for his life lessons and for teaching them to never give up.
Groark was so appreciative, he turned those tickets into a field trip for the entire class to attend the game with his family.
“The note had all of their names on it and a note thanking me for teaching them to get back up and be strong,” Groark noted. “I instantly wanted to reward them for it.”
Fast forward through the years: Groark started a barbecue company called Groark Boys BBQ, after his two sons. Through the company and his hefty social media following, Groark has been able to raise money for numerous charities and families in need.
“In my first year of business, September of 2018, I think I raised about $30,000 for different charities and events,” he said. “I did a lot of work with the school and the sports teams and community food-truck festivals in the township.”
Groark has participated in fundraisers with Philadelphia’s Team Foster, a veterans service-dog program, and also helped provide food to essential workers at the beginning of COVID-19.
The pandemic has not stopped Groark from helping others, and he is now using his platform on social media, especially TikTok, to raise funds and awareness for people in need.
“We had a student who passed away last month in Washington Township from cancer,” Groark explained. “I went on TikTok and asked people to donate, and I was able to take a check in my business name to his family’s house for about $1,600.”
Groark also used his platform to raise $6,000 for a young girl with brain cancer.
“I just had people Venmo me money out of the blue,” Groark said. “It says a lot; I am proud of it. People know who I am and how my heart is in it. They are willing to send me money and trust I will do the right thing with it.”
Most recently, Groark was awarded a $10,000 grant through Sam’s Club that he used to pay off a new BBQ trailer he hopes to have up and running in the spring.
Now in the BBQ off-season, the teacher spends all the time he can with his family before spring, which is prime BBQ season. He has a lot of thoughts in the works about what he wants the future of his business to look like.
“The next thing I am looking forward to is getting back up and running in the spring,” he offered. “I am starting to look into doing online courses, live cook demonstrations, and trying to turn this BBQ thing into more of a brand instead of just catering and events. There might be opportunity for a brick- and-mortar (store) at some point.”
For more information about the Groark family, check out their social media pages with the username @groarkboysbbq.