‘He still attacks everything with positivity’: Former hospital roommates reflect on friendship and mentorship

Brendan Cogavin (left) and Matt Freitas in the athletic field’s bleachers at Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury.
Brendan Cogavin (left) and Matt Freitas in the athletic field’s bleachers at Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury.(Jim Davis /Globe Staff)

Matt Freitas and Brendan Cogavin met as roommates at Boston Children’s Hospital, where they bonded by playing video games and talking about their experiences as Boy Scouts.

Matt was recovering from surgery to remove part of his right leg after a car crash. Brendan had hip surgery to correct complications from a genetic condition.

Little did they know that their three-day hospital stay more than six years ago would be the start of a friendship that would reunite them at Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury.

They had kept in touch, neither knew the other had enrolled at the all-boys, grade 7 to 12 school. But that’s where each landed in the fall of 2015, Matt as a freshman and Brendan as a seventh-grader.


“Our friendship kind of kicked off a lot stronger from there,” said Matt, 18, a senior from Weymouth.

At a school that celebrates brotherhood, Matt and Brendan’s friendship flourished as they tackled academics, sports and service. Matt captained the lacrosse and wrestling teams. Brendan plays tennis and helps manage the team.

Together, they inspired other boys on the Baker Street campus.

“Each of them bring so much joy and positivity to the school day,” said Peter Folan, the school’s president. “And that’s just infectious.”

The pair have found strength and motivation in each other.

“I think, looking back it, Brendan’s mindset in the hospital helped set up my mindset coming out of it,” Matt said recently, seated in a conference room at the school.

“He’s [Matt’s] had to overcome a lot of obstacles and I’ve sort of been in the same situation where I have to overcome my obstacles,” said Brendan, 16, a sophomore from West Roxbury.

Aside from sports, the two also take part in speech and debate, and share similar academic interests, like physics and political science.


Matt offered Brendan pointers before his first speech and debate tournament, helping him to build confidence to compete in front of a large crowd, he said.

When Brendan had a second hip surgery in eighth grade, Matt was there to offer emotional and physical support. He helped to lift Brendan’s wheelchair into the school.

Brendan admires Matt’s devotion to athletics, and how his friend has been able to overcome physical challenges to play lacrosse.

“I want to try to get better at [tennis],” Brendan said. “And I can look up to Matt in that way.”

Despite being two years older, Matt said he looks up to Brendan.

“Everything that Brendan has gone through in his life, he still attacks everything with positivity,” he said. “He still does tons of stuff for our school and in our school.”

Soon, Matt and Brendan’s time together at CM will end. Matt graduates on May 23, and will head to Williams College in the fall to study political science and play lacrosse.

Still, he plans to keep an eye out for Brendan, encouraging him at tennis and applying to colleges.

“I can give him the older brother type of role,” he said.

Andrew Stanton can be reached at andrew.stanton@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @_andrewstanton.