Crowd funders send homeless St. Paul mom to Rio to see her son compete

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A homeless St. Paul mother is arriving in Rio De Janeiro Sunday morning after a crowdfunding campaign raised enough money to let her see her son complete in the Olympics.

Florence Matadi, 58, who has been living in her car or on the streets since an electrical fire burned through her house in 2013, spoke to the Pioneer Press earlier this week about her desire to see her son, Johnson High School graduate Emmanuel Matadi, compete for his native Liberia.

The newspaper was contacted by several readers who wanted to help Matadi realize her dream of seeing her son run in the 100m and 200m, after having been the flag bearer for Liberia during the opening ceremony.

And she has been able to make the journey thanks to her pastor, Dana Nelson of Galilee Lutheran Church in Roseville, who set up a GoFundMe page to help her get to Rio and give her the money to get herself back on her feet.

She needed $3,000 to make the journey to Rio and that target was achieved and then some, with more than $6,000 having been raised as of Sunday.

The following update was posted on Saturday:

"Florence is flying today to Rio! She will be able to see her son on Tuesday.

Thank you community of amazing people for all of your support! Florence's travel expenses should be covered now by what we have received so far. Thank you! We are keeping this going because the next step is to help her rebuild her home so that she, her son, and the rest of the family can live there when they get back. Please keep the momentum going. Let's help them rebuild what the fire took away. Thank you all so much much!"

Matadi failed to qualify for the later rounds in the 100m dash on Saturday, but his mother will be in attendance when he runs in the 200m trials on Tuesday.

Matadi, who fled civil war in Liberia with his family in 1999, told MPR that competing in the Olympics is a "dream come true," adding: "It's so unbelievable to be here, competing against the best in the world."

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