A FEW WORDS

About Deegan

Deegan took his last drive on Sunday, October 1, 2023. He loved race cars, motorcycles, dirt bikes, jet skis, and pretty much anything that had a motor. He loved his big brother, skiing, music, and his favorite dogs, Isabella and Bonnie, but more than anything in life, Deegan loved to make people laugh. He didn’t care if it got him in trouble, if he got kicked out of class…if he could make someone laugh, he’d do it. He had the biggest heart and would’ve done anything in his power to make someone else smile. He hated to see someone sad, or to feel like someone was upset with him. Deegan was an honor student at Holly High School and was also dual enrolled in classes at The University of Michigan – Flint. He played a lot of sports over the years, but didn’t love a single one of them more than he loved the Subaru WRX STI he started saving for when he was 14, and drove home three days after his 16th birthday. Deegan was most proud of his work at A-Star Fabrication. He aspired to open his own performance (I’m sure he’d call it something different) shop after graduation, and he loved learning from his boss, Andy. He made some of his best friends at A-Star and made a lot of great memories with them doing what they loved the most: race cars.

ABOUT THE DEEGAN PROJECT




When my husband and I arrived to the spot where first responders had closed the road, many of our friends and family had already gathered there. When a fire-fighter spoke the words, telling us that our son was gone, my husband and I clung together as our world fell apart. When I opened my eyes, looking over my husband’s shoulder, I saw one of my son’s best friends. I watched as a 17-year-old boy that had been part of our lives for more than a decade tried to process that he’d just tragically lost his friend. I could see the hurt in his face, but I could also see the sadness he felt in watching us find out that Deegan was gone. I knew in that moment that Deegan’s friends were going to need help finding their way through his death.

Our first step was bringing a mental health speaker to Deegan’s high school. The district sent us a few suggestions, but they weren’t people we felt could engage a group of teenage kids. A teenager couldn’t care less about credentials, and they can Google their own statistics. As I was researching the suggested speakers, Deegan’s 19-year-old brother passed by, stopped to listen for a second, and said: “Oh, so like the mental health speakers they bring in every year that no one listens to?” I knew we had to do better. So I did what any teenage kid would do, I turned to social media. I spent hours looking for someone who would give sound information, but would also be engaging to a teenage kid. Late one night, I stumbled across a video of Jared Scott speaking at a high school. And then I watched a lot more of his videos. What struck me more than the way he spoke their language, was that in every one of those videos I searched for the kids on their phones in the audience. And I never found one. Not one phone in gyms full of teenage kids. I needed him to help Deegan’s friends. After lots of pushback, attending a school-board meeting, and finally connecting directly with the superintendent, we were able to bring Jared in to speak to the entire student body at Deegan’s high school.

When we chose to be transparent about Deegan taking his own life, we knew the stigma that would come with it, but we felt that if we could save one single Deegan, or one single parent or sibling from the pain we felt, then it was worth it. After Jared left, students and parents began reaching out to our family. Some thanked us for bringing Jared into the school, some shared their own mental health journeys, and some asked for help because they felt they had no one else to turn to. We’ve since learned to use social media to share his story, and we’ve heard from people from all over the world. We knew that Deegan’s story was saving lives when the first parent relayed that her son had come to her and said: “I’ve been thinking about what happened with Deegan, and I need you to know that I don’t feel safe being alone with myself right now.” Since then, we’ve been shocked at the number of times we’ve heard similar stories.

Our family created The Deegan Project, a Michigan registered non-profit, with the mission of helping to end the stigma that surrounds mental health by providing education, raising awareness, and providing resources to teens struggling with mental health issues.

The official Spokesdog


Isabella, aka: Izzy, Bella, Moose, Moo, was Deegan’s shadow. He loved teaching her new tricks, going out for pup-cups, and taking her everywhere he went. He’d even take the front seat out his car for her, so she could ride comfortably with her snoot in the wind. Check back to find out what Isabella’s up to in his absence.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES


If you would like to help US change the stigma that surrounds mental health, we’d love to have you help out at one of our upcoming events!

OUR PARTNERS

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