Matt ‘Dezy’ DiStefano—Sachem’s Inspiring Cancer Awareness Warrior—has Died

LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY ( / — Sachem coach, teacher, and cancer awareness warrior Matt "Dezy" DiStefano has died, Sachem Central School District officials confirmed publicly late this afternoon. He succumbed to his battle with stage 4 kidney cancer at the age of 42. 

DiStefano served as an inspiration across the entire Sachem community and beyond through the DezyStrong Foundation he founded. The foundation was established in 2019 after DiStefano was diagnosed with kidney cancer in February 2018.

According to the foundation’s website, the DezyStrong Foundation provides “the opportunity for individuals with cancer to have access to experiences that directly affect a positive mental well-being.”

DiStefano was relentlessly committed to that positive mindset every day as he captivated an entire community. Hashtags “#WeGetTo” and “#DezyStrong” trended on social media. DiStefano wrote this inspiring message on the Foundation’s website homepage:

“When people find out they have cancer, they think their life is over. For me it's different. For me it's the beginning of something special in life. A life in which I can help others change their way of mentally approaching the disease, learning to be a warrior, a fighter, and have hope. I prefer to say that I am going to conquer this disease. I will control it, rather than have it control me. This is why I founded the DezyStrong Foundation. To help others stay positive, control their mindset, and most of all - keep grinding DezyStrong style!”

- Matt "Dezy" DiStefano

Dr. Kenneth Graham, Superintendent of Schools, released the following to the Sachem community today regarding DiStefano’s passing, which OnSachem is sharing in its entirety.

January 27, 2020

Dear Sachem Community,

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news of the passing of Matthew “Dezy” DiStefano, a teacher and volleyball coach at Sachem North. Mr. DiStefano has been a beloved member of our Sachem faculty for nearly 20 years.

As you know, Mr. DiStefano’s spirit, strength, and message have had a huge impact on all of us in the Sachem community as well as across Long Island and around the world. His dedication to our students, families and community was admirable. He was a wonderful colleague who will be missed greatly, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and loved ones.

I realize the impact that this news has on us all, especially his students and players, and those who worked closely with him. The district has counselors available to all students and staff in need to assist as we grieve this tragic loss.

Please join Sachem faculty, staff, and students tomorrow afternoon at 4:30pm on the Sachem North football field for a remembrance celebration of Mr. DiStefano. Please keep the DiStefano family in your thoughts.


Kenneth E. Graham, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools

Matt "Dezy" DiStefano talked about his journey in a documentary video

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