Matthew Fleeger, Gulf Coast Western CEO, is a Dallas-Based Philanthropist
Matthew Fleeger, CEO of Gulf Coast Western, and a 13-year-old Bartonville, Texas, girl named Sadie Keller share a common bond. They are both cancer survivors. They use that bond to help bring joy to children who have been diagnosed with cancer.
After Sadie Keller’s experience with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, she founded the Sadie Keller Foundation, which strives to put smiles on the faces of children diagnosed with cancer and to urge them to keep fighting. After Matthew Fleeger’s fight with cancer, he led Gulf Coast Western to partner with the Sadie Keller Foundation on several of its projects.
“Because I have experienced cancer myself, I have a survivor’s compassion for the impact cancer has physically and spiritually on adults,” said Matthew Fleeger. “I cannot imagine the strength and courage required for a child to endure this disease.”
Matthew Fleeger has donated $25,000 and put Gulf Coast Western employee resources behind the foundation’s primary annual project. That project collects toys for Sadie’s Sleigh and distributes them to children and teens who are hospitalized and fighting cancer. The company’s initial goal was to collect more than 10,000 toys. Each year, the goal has climbed higher. Last Christmas, knowing how the pandemic has further disrupted these children’s lives, the team worked even harder, increasing its contribution by 25 percent.
“It was a difficult year for oil companies, but that pales in comparison to the difficulties faced by children with cancer,” Matthew Fleeger said. Because of the pandemic, these children couldn’t play as a group in the hospital playroom and could only be visited by one parent at a time.
“My heart always goes out to children with pediatric cancer and their parents, but especially now, since the children are more isolated from each other and their parents,” says Matthew Fleeger.
Every year, employees pair off by expertise – such as electronics, boys’ toys, and girls’ toys – to shop and buy up to 6,000 toys at a time from one retailer. These toys include various favorites, such as bicycles, dolls, and Power Wheels tanks. Every year, the team presents these gifts in person to Keller and her foundation at the annual employee Christmas Party. That presentation makes the party special for Keller, the employees, and their spouses.
This year, the focus was slightly different. Instead of buying toys to be enjoyed in playrooms, the team focused on toys that a child could enjoy by themselves in their rooms. These included items such as headphones, Nintendo Switch, and action figures. Because of the masks, Sadie missed seeing the smiles on the faces of the children who received the toys, and the Gulf Coast Western employees missed seeing her reaction when they presented the toys to her foundation. However, they felt fortunate to be able to complete the mission.
“Even in tough times, the company team came through,” said Matthew Fleeger. “I feel blessed that we could help this year when it meant the most.”
Fleeger noted that not only has the pandemic made life more difficult for children with cancer, but it has also made fundraising more difficult for charities such as Sadie’s foundation. Many regular contributors are out of work and cannot give, for example.
Gulf Coast Western’s support has been a significant factor in Sadie’s Sleigh growing from its origins at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas to include 10 other children’s hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Austin, Tampa, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C.
Gulf Coast Western also sponsors the foundation’s annual Yellow Ball fundraiser, although the pandemic forced the cancellation of the ball in 2020. The fundraiser typically features raffles, a silent and live auction, and a dinner/dance. At that fundraiser in previous years, Matthew Fleeger bought some of Sadie’s paintings, the sale of which benefits the foundation.
A devoted philanthropist, Matthew Fleeger also works with the foundation to raise awareness about childhood cancer and the lack of sufficient funding for pediatric cancer research.
The Sadie Keller Foundation is one of several charities that Matthew Fleeger and Gulf Coast Western support. A portion of the company’s profits goes to help the North Texas Food Bank. The company is also involved in several other children-related charities in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and throughout the country. For example, the company supports Smile Train, which provides care for children with cleft palates. It also supports research into cancer and other diseases that affect children and has donated to Shriners Hospitals and St. Jude Children’s Hospital. It also helps sponsor children who pursue STEM (science, technology, and math) education. Gulf Coast Western has also supported Magdalene House, a community for women who have survived sex trafficking.
“Supporting the community and developing trusting relationships are key values at Gulf Coast Western,” Matthew Fleeger says.
About Gulf Coast Western
Gulf Coast Western is a family-owned business based in Dallas. It is focused on exploring, developing, and acquiring domestic oil and gas reserves. Founded in 1970 by Matthew Fleeger’s father, the company focuses primarily on the Gulf Coast Region of the United States, although it has activities in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Colorado. Gulf Coast Western serves as the Managing Venturer of Oil & Gas General Partnerships, otherwise known as Joint Ventures.