When a tragedy of this magnitude strikes you really find out a lot about people. When you get a call like we did your mind begins to go a million miles a minute while at the same time you are going into shock because the reality of it all is too hard to grasp. You don’t want to believe that this is actually happening to you and your family you can’t imagine that your child could possibly be gone forever. When we got to Chico we were 3 hours away from home with no family or friends we barely knew Matt’s roommates or the town of Chico because we had just moved him there a short time ago, he hadn’t lived there long enough for us to get to know anyone or where anything was. This is when we found out how incredible even a perfect stranger can be to you in your time of need and desperation. This is when you find out just how much your family and friends mean to you, this is when you find out just how much your child was loved and admired.
There are so many people to thank but first and foremost I must thank my two wonderful sisters. Frankie Dickinson and Angie Birdwell, had it not been for them I don’t know what we would have done. From the minute I called them that horrible Wednesday morning and told them that Matt was in the hospital in Chico in critical condition (because that is what we believed at the time) they were there for me. We had constant contact by phone as Frankie left work to go and get Angie and meet us in Chico. Once there they took total control of the situation making an unimaginable amount of calls on my behalf and assuring that the media had the story as well as the University and much more. They made sure a flyer was created for Matt’s Vigil in Chico and arranged to have hundreds printed at the OfficeMax in Chico where Matt worked. They helped me put Matt’s incredible Memorial Service together from printing a poem I had written in his Graduation Announcement to going through countless pictures I have taken over the years to create collages and a power point presentation to the bookmark we made for everyone to have in memory of Matt. They come to court with us whenever they can their love and support has saved me.
I would like to thank our best friends the Vahl’s (Bill, Bobbie, Kristi and Brandi) they too dropped everything leaving work and school to come straight to Chico to be with us as soon as they found out that Matt did not make it. They have been there for us ever since as they have always been. They made red and gold ribbons for everyone to wear at Matt’s Service and Bobbie made our Matt’s badges that we wear to every court hearing and many other times. They come to court with us whenever they can.
Matt’s best friends, The Century 5, (Andrew McPhee, Mark Yu, Jeff Luangrath and Erwin Barerra ) loved Matt like a brother. We were unable to reach them until that afternoon, but once they all found out and were able to get away from work and school they headed straight to Chico arriving in the wee hours of the night. We met up with them at The Heritage Inn Express in Chico the next day where they checked in also and stayed with us until we all came home with Matt and his belongings that Saturday. They put together the music for Matt’s power point presentation as well as all the music for his Memorial Service and each spoke about Matt and what he meant to them. They are all wonderful guys and incredible friends to Matt they each have a Matt characteristic and they will forever be a part of our family. They come to court with us whenever they can.
Matt’s roommates, Molly Priest and Sarah Shipp, these amazing ladies adored Matt and were at the hospital when we arrived and even though we were only acquaintances at the time invited us (Greg, Travis and me) back to their and Matt’s house when we left the hospital. They allowed our family and friends to come to their home while we diligently tried to find out what had happened and figure out what to do next. They distributed hundreds of Matt’s vigil flyers all over town and Chico State University. They were so gracious and kind opening their home to everyone after Matt’s Vigil where we got to hear wonderful Matt stories from those that attended. They both spoke at Matt’s Vigil and at his Service they will have a special place in our hearts forever.
I would like to give a special thanks to Carol Bushard who is our Victim’s Advocate she introduced herself at our very first court hearing and has been attending them with us ever since. She is so sweet and kind hearted she has learned to live with the tragic loss of her beloved son who was brutally murdered a few years ago and has become my inspiration. She gives me hope that one day I too will learn to live with the loss of my precious son.
Our good friends and neighbors Phil and Tina O’Shea who took care of us, shopped for us made meals for us, cried with us, held us and told us that what we were feeling was okay. They are there for us everyday when we need them.
My best friend Peggy Setencich, who was there when I needed her and stayed with us while we packed up Matt's belongings. Her trip to the funeral home with us provided us with extra strength we needed to face the task of picking up Matt's remains for the long drive home.
The Chico Police Department, especially Detectives Greg Keeney and Rob Merrifield who met with Greg, Travis and me at the hospital to explain what they knew at the time had happened to Matt, were there for us at a moments notice and are there whenever we need them. They have always been open and honest with us and treated us with the utmost respect I know I can still call Detective Keeney to this day and he will be there for me.
Stephanie, the Social Worker that talked us through the extremely long drive to Chico making sure we got there safely, met us at the entrance of the hospital and took care of us, took us to see our sweet Matt and helped us try to comprehend what was happening.
Carolyn, the Police Chaplain, who met us at the hospital, stayed with Travis while Greg & I went to see Matt hoping against hope that they had made a mistake. She went with us to Matt’s house and tried to help us understand what we were feeling she kindly stayed with us until we were emotionally stable enough to be on our own.
DA Mike Ramsey, for always being so gracious and helpful to our family even though he is a very busy man. He is doing his best to see that justice is served and has always been open and honest with us explaining in laymen’s terms exactly what is going on.
Newton-Bracewell Funeral Home, for the beautiful job they did on Matt, he looked like our sweet precious son with an adorable little smirk on his face. It is so nice to have my last memory of Matt be of him looking so sweet and not having it be of what he looked like in the hospital. I will always be grateful to them.
The Heritage Inn Express, Chico, for accommodating us and our family and friends in our time of need and since then. They graciously made a suite available for us and allowed the media access to their facilities. Their staff is very kind and helpful and anytime we stay over in Chico they will be our first choice.
Our neighbors, friends and family, that drove all the way up to Chico on a Friday afternoon to be at Matt’s vigil that night.
To the over 200 people that attended Matt’s Vigil and especially to those that told us stories about Matt hearing about Matt was an incredible help to us
To the over 500 people that filled the church over flowing into the aisles at Matt’s Memorial Service and for the wonderful things that were shared that day.
To Our Neighbors, for Matt’s beautiful Memorial Garden they are in the process of putting in our front yard where they watched Matt grow up.
To the 2005 and 2004 Pleasant Hill Hawks and the Pleasant Hill Baseball Association, the Hawks families were there for us from the day this happened giving us support and planned the reception for after Matt’s Service. A special thank you to Art and Kris Flores for opening their home to the hundreds of mourners and thank you to the over 200 people from PHBA that came to the service to pay their respects.
New Life Church in Alamo, CA where we had Matt’s beautiful Memorial Service
Iain Hanley, for creating the lovely flyer for Matt’s Vigil in Chico and for helping with the website
Anthony Wade, who helped with the flyer production
Kurt Asplindh of E & J Photo Lab, for retouching and printing the original photo of Matt seen across the country
OfficeMax in Chico, (where Matt worked) who printed hundreds of Matt’s Vigil flyers at no cost
Kinko’s in Pleasant Hill, who printed pictures of Matt (who worked there prior to moving to Chico) for his Memorial Service at no cost
Karen Maskens, for her incredible kindness in getting Matt’s website up and continuing to work on it for us.
Anita Goodman, for her generous time spent designing Matt's website's new look adding the things he loved most in life to his Home Page.
Jessica Makarewicz, for her quick response to our call for a web-designer and being able to understand and deal with our hectic schedule.
Pacific Color Graphics, for the beautiful Matt decals
Solid Rock Enterprise, for the lovely necklace with the laser picture of Matt
California State University Chico, for doing what they can to make change and diligently working towards a safe and better place for our children to learn
Chico Enterprise Record – Melissa Daugherty and Terry Vau Dell
The Orion - Brea Jones, Lauren Brooks, Emily Wheeler (photographer) and Jennifer Scholtes
News and Review, Chico – Mark Lore
And to all the media that has respected what we are going through and are using their positions to bring awareness to the public in hopes that we can put a stop to these ugly coercive behaviors that are so harmful to our children.
And last but not least I would like to thank everyone for the hundreds of cards, emails, flowers, gifts and your heartfelt condolences, your love and your prayers give us strength. Please continue to pray for Matt and our family.