While the loss will always be there, Penny Murphy can take some comfort in knowing her son has made a difference.
More than 300 people attended the fourth annual Matthew Murphy Memorial Fishermen’s Breakfast at Bonshaw Community Centre on Sunday in memory of the young Islander.
Matthew, an avid outdoorsman who dreamed of becoming a welder, took his life at the age of 19 after what his parents described as “severe” bullying in high school.
Proceeds from this year’s breakfast will go towards establishing an award for Eliot River Elementary School students who exemplify anti-bullying, inclusion and acceptance.
Murphy said the anti-bullying efforts in Matthew’s memory have helped her and husband Ron through the healing process since the death of their son in 2014.
“It was so senseless that Matthew lost his life over what he lost his life over. To see his life having a purpose, it just brings you some comfort,” said Murphy. “It’s not ever going to bring him back, but it keeps him alive and it spreads the message we need to make a difference. We need to accept people, we need to be kinder human beings.”
Murphy said the award will be presented to both a male and female Grade 6 student at the end of the year.
Winners will take home a trophy or plaque, while a plaque recognizing past recipients will remain at the school.
Last year, $3,800 from the breakfast was donated to the P.E.I. division of the Canadian Mental Health Association to stay in the province for youth programming. Any remaining funds from this year’s breakfast will also go to the association.
The first two years saw a $1,000 scholarship at Bluefield High School targeted at students entering the trades who stood up against bullying.
However, with little support from the high school, the Murphy family felt the message of inclusion would be more effective with younger students.
“It’s not about laying blame for us, it’s about preventing it from happening to another child and showing support and inclusion,” said Murphy. “It’s better to get kids when they’re younger. You still have a chance to develop healthy ideas and choices.”
Murphy thanked the breakfast’s many volunteers and sponsors, with most of the items being donated from local businesses.
“It really helps Ronnie and I with the healing process and with going through the loss of Matthew,” she said, noting the community’s support is also why they wanted to make the award at Matthew’s former school Eliot River Elementary. “We want to give back to the community and say thank you for the support and we want to make a difference in the kids growing up.
“He lost his battle but maybe we can change that for somebody else.”
Murphy said she also wanted to let students facing similar struggles know support is out there.
She also encouraged parents to talk to their kids and to be straight-forward.
“Don’t be scared to ask your kids ‘do you feel suicidal?’… If you get the answer that they are, you need to get professional help.”