The obituary says Matthew Davenport, 17, "passed away unexpectedly" July 11, 2011. The account only tells a small part of the story. Matthew's two-year battle with drug addiction had driven him to suicide.
Now, Matthew's father, Peter Davenport of Bellevue is telling the rest of the story to anyone who will listen. Speaking at churches, schools, driving classes and other gatherings, Davenport has begun a crusade to save other lives from the same fate. In February, he gave programs in Bellevue and was part of a drug panel in March. In April, he spoke at Sycamore UMC, Clyde High School and addressed a court-ordered gathering for troubled youth.
"I would like to be the last parent to lose a child this way," Davenport said. "I have to do everything I can to stop drug use and suicide."The bereaved father said his efforts are helping him to heal and to forgive himself for any role he may have played in Matthew's demise. At the same time, it is emotionally exhausting, because he must relive his pain and loss again and again. Every time he gives his program, people pay attention. Davenport believes they can identify with the pain.
PHOTO BY MARYANN KROMER
A guitar and shoes once belonging to Matthew Davenport, who killed himself in 2011 after a two-year struggle with drugs, now are used in a program about drug abuse given by his father, Peter Davenport.
"It's what we do with it that counts," he said.
On April 29, Davenport spoke to a group of 19 men and women who had been ordered to complete a Young Adult Substance Abuse Seminar, facilitated by Wyandot Counseling Associates. In introducing the speaker, Charla Van Osdol, prevention specialist at Firelands Counseling and Recovery, said she met Davenport by chance.
"It was almost like fate. Through meetings, I got to learn more about what he is bringing to our community ... You are going to hear his story of how drugs and addiction played out his family," Van Osdol said.
Community Action for Reducing Substance Abuse is to present "Let's Talk" 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at North Central Ohio Educational Service Center, 928 W. Market St., Tiffin. The featured presentation is "Matthew's Music: A Father's Story of Addiction and
The presenter is Peter Davenport of Bellevue whose son took his own life in July 2011. Davenport has become an advocate for parents and grandparents trying to protect youth from the dangers of drugs and an advocate for those struggling with addiction. Cathy Belfiore and Tyler Watson are to offer
Davenport pointed to the guitar he had brought to the program and explained the instrument had belonged to his son Matthew. The soft-spoken introverted teen, played clarinet in the school marching band and wind ensemble. He also was part of a local rock band and the praise band at Bellevue First United Methodist Church. Davenport played a video of Matthew playing acoustic and electric guitar and called the recordings "a blessing."
"Music was so much of who he was," Davenport told the audience.
The guitar had been a reward to Matthew for one year of sobriety, but Matthew was not sober. He had learned to mask his addiction so well, his parents and his girlfriend were deceived; however, Matthew could not deceive himself. On July 11, 2011, the 17-year-old sent his parents a text message just before he took his own life in his car by asphyxiation. His girlfriend, Hailey Tyree, was the person who found him more than two days after his death.
"That's what he left for the love of his life," Davenport said, holding up a small urn containing his son's ashes. "This is all I have left of my son."
Davenport said he and his sister, a nurse, will never forget the odor they had to endure when they cleaned out the car. The bright spot was recovering the laptop that held Matthew's music. The entire family was devastated, along with Matthew's friends and classmates. Pete said he had such a severe case of post-traumatic stress he nearly followed Matthew in death and had to be hospitalized.
The program includes Matthew's last text and the note he left on the car's dashboard. Davenport told the seminar participants they are at a juncture. They have bypassed the support of their families and violated community standards. They can choose to keep using dangerous drugs and risk hurting themselves and others, or they can stop now and go on with their lives. Besides being deadly, drugs usually lead to criminal charges that make it difficult to keep a driver's license, which makes it hard to find and hold a job. Davenport said not to blame other people for what they have done.
"You're here for a choice you made," he said. "People care about you."
Davenport and his wife, Leigh, had discovered Matthew's use of marijuana in 2009. They immediately wrote a drug policy for Matthew, laying out restrictions, punishments and rewards and space to record drug test results. Then Pete took his son to a barber who shaved his head. Another condition was to place earnings from his job into a custodial account Pete would oversee.
"That's a disgraceful thing for a parent to do," Davenport told the listeners.
Matthew seemed to be following the rules his father had set down for him, but in April 2010, Matthew was arrested for possession of K2 at school. Pete promised the boy a new guitar if he could remain sober for a year. Last April, Matthew became ill and had a seizure that landed him in the emergency room. His diagnosis was cyclic vomiting syndrome. In May, the family celebrated a year of sobriety for Matthew. About two months later, he was dead.
"He used that gift of one-year sobriety. Even though it was a lie the way he got it, he still used it to make this beautiful music," Davenport said. "We take the individual pieces and don't realize they are connected, but God brings them together"
Davenport passed out guitar picks with Matthew's name on them and suggested that participants carry a picks in a pocket to remind them to stay sober. Van Osdol said some of the people at the seminar are parents who may need to protect their own children someday. Pete said his parents did not provide much guidance, so he had to guide himself.
Area churches have been donating funds to purchase the guitar picks and print pamphlets. One of the pamphlets is a blank drug policy that Davenport will help parents to fill out with specific guidelines for their individual teens. He also leads a support group, "Life in You," for anyone struggling with drugs or suicide. The group meets 3-5 p.m. Sundays at Bellevue First UMC. He also has been working with the school system in Bellevue to speak to grade school students.
Tyler Watson, a good friend of Matthew's, is to speak at the May 9 program, along with his mother, Cathy Belfiore. Davenport said he plans to give his program for the rest of his life, as long as anyone will listen. He also has set up a website, www.matthewsmusic.org and a facebook page with more information. He can be reached at (419) 217-1950.