October 2, 2017 – My friend Matt Polk passed away on October 21, 2015 when he was just 25 years old.
I met Matt in high school. We were part of the same group of friends. Matt was like a little brother to me. We bickered and fought constantly: just like real family. When push came to shove, though, Matt would quite literally do anything for his friends. He was someone you could call at any time of the day or night and he would pick up the phone.
To know that someone like Matt, who we all thought so highly of, and who appeared outwardly to be so together, took his own life, is one of the hardest things I believe I’ll ever go through.
Life is, quite simply, harder with Matt gone.
His family. His friends. We all feel his loss daily.
Growing up with Matt, we spent many Halloweens together. It was our favorite holiday by far. We loved dressing up, getting into character, and eating and drinking with friends.
After his suicide, I decided I wanted to do something in my friend’s name and honor, and I wanted it to be something he would have loved and enjoyed. An idea started to come together in my mind: a Halloween fundraiser!
The Polk Smash Monster Mash would be an awesome Halloween party that would celebrate the life of our friend, while raising funds for suicide prevention. It would also remind people that mental health is just as important as physical health, and must be carefully managed.
I reached out to Matt’s parents, Bob and Lisa, for their blessing, and with the help of our local AFSP chapter in Wichita, Kansas, this simple idea suddenly became a plan that was set in motion.
Putting together an event is not a simple task! Our little committee leapt into action and began reaching out to every local business we could find, looking for help with graphic design, photos, music, decorations, prizes, and many other things the party would need. We set up meetings to make the many arrangements needed for such an event. Halloween was fast approaching!
I was shocked and touched while sitting in these meetings to hear that so many of these people who were happy to donate resources had also been affected personally by suicide. It really is true: though many people are hesitant to speak up about it, so many of us have some connection to this cause. As these different members within our community opened up to me and shared their personal experiences, I realized just how important it was to speak up and create awareness. Our Halloween celebration would be a fun, joyful way of doing so.
It was a lot of work, but before I knew it, the pieces began to fall into place. It became evident that our little – but important – event was going to be something special.
The Polk Smash Monster Mash ended up being an incredible success. The night of the party, we were packed wall-to-wall. Every person who walked in the door knew they were at an AFSP event. We gave away donations from local companies as prizes, danced our faces off, and spent the night making new friends in our community, all in honor of our friend who we loved. We wanted people to have a great time, donate, and give thought to mental health and suicide prevention. Looking around the room, I knew we had succeeded.
The night was incredibly special for me. It provoked a lot of raw emotions, but I was in a room full of Matthew’s friends, family, and supporters of AFSP. More than anything, I wished I could have my friend back: to have him there with us, having a good time on this holiday he had loved, that we had always shared with him. I felt gratified that the money we raised for AFSP would go towards innovative research that would save lives, important educational programs, much-needed support for those who have lost someone to suicide, and AFSP’s advocacy efforts.
That was last year and we’re doing Polk Smash Monster Mash again this year.
Happy Halloween, Matt. We miss you.
Tickets for the Polk Smash Monster Mash may be purchased here.
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