Looking back on the year of 2017
It was an opportunity for celebration and reflection of our many accomplishments. We have literally shared our You Matter message all over the world, from Scotland, Australia, Cyprus, Ireland, Nigeria, England, to the many places in the US. As I look back on the thousands of lives that we have touched I am reminded of the importance to never give up or let the voice of discouragement deter us from what is possible. Had I let a couple of influential people who told me that I wouldn’t succeed at this endeavor, dampen my desire to spread my message, there most certainly would have been lives lost. Thus the importance of surrounding yourself with people who encourage and support your dreams and desires, just like my two favorite songs, “Never Give Up” by Sia and “Riser” by Dierks Bentley, so beautifully illustrate for us.
The year continued with a beautiful celebration of Andy’s 21st Birthday at our Arizona State Capital with the presentation of Andy Hull’s Proclamation!!!! This event was sponsored by a very special State Representative, Becky Nutt, who cares enough about her community to not only honor the life of my son but also encourage others to share our You Matter message with the world. This continued support of suicide awareness and prevention at the Legislative level will eventually lead to laws which will mandate the education of our teachers and administrators so that we can end this horrible epidemic! This of course is only one avenue of prevention but it is one step forward in the right direction. Suicide is now the number ONE yes number ONE cause of death for 10-14 year olds in the state of Arizona!!
Beginning of 2018
Our rapid growth began this year blooming from a fabulous full page article in The Arizona Republic by Karina Bland, who described our past, present and future accomplishments. We were introduced into the Pennsylvania market because someone passing through our Airport read the paper and saw the Article about our journey. Before we new it we were invited to present at The Hershey Hotel Ballroom on suicide awareness and prevention. From that one night, people from all over the State came to hear us and consequently we were then asked to come back again to share our message 21 times in one week throughout the County of Lebanon, PA., sponsored by The Lebanon County Crisis Intervention!
We were fortunate enough once again to present at our State Capital later in the year to a group of many different organizations, from law enforcement to health care groups, which once again opened many more doors for us to walk through. You see, our You Matter message resonates with every age group, every gender, and every socio-economic background. Everybody wants to know that they matter and that they have a purpose on the planet. While we are in our third consecutive years at several high schools, many new schools are now reaching out to us to deliver our information from 5th grade to College level students.
In addition to our presentations, our Sunshine Readers and Camp You Matter have exploded onto the scene. We now have hundreds of volunteer readers reaching into many different school districts reading and instilling our You Matter message with thousands of children who are hungry for the heart connection that our readers make with them on a weekly basis. This program is run by the fabulous Ellen Dean who hopes to increase the literacy of our youth but also to leave these kids with a sense of purpose and value in their lives. Our Camp You Matter which is a 10 week curriculum developed by our very own Kathleen McKeever, has been presented in several schools in Arizona and will be expanding to Pennsylvania this summer. This program will lead participants (campers) in grades 3-12 through this amazing hands-on program to promote the core concept that every person matters. The campers are led on an indoor wilderness experience with the help of our You Matter Guide.
After presenting in schools, churches, rotary clubs, military bases, our message has now expanding to international construction sites where we are, of course sharing our You Matter message but also expanding to include messages of ownership of your life and discussing the difference between being a victim or a victor!! The conversation begins with the agreement that we can’t always control what happens to us but we CAN control how we respond to the many challenging situations that we may incur. This has been personally very rewarding to see these men open their hearts and minds and begin to process their own mental health.
Throughout the year we have also participated in many fundraisers to honor the lives of other special young people who have completed suicide, such as Ryan’s Race, Jacen’s Ride, Charlie’s Golf Tournament.
While we wish that these events never had to occur, we celebrate the lives that have moved to Heaven and the triumphant spirit of their parents. What we know is that by sharing the lives of our children who have completed suicide, we are indeed saving other lives with our You Matter message!
Thanks to so many of you who support our efforts through your monetary support, articles written, social media blasting and simple word of mouth referrals, the doors are continuing to open and our journey is blooming where we have been planted. We won’t stop until this epidemic is thwarted and suicide is a word of the past! Our world is screaming for a message of hope, love and purpose which we will deliver one You Matter at a time. To learn more about Andy’s Sunshine and our mission to save lives, please watch the brief video below.