Meeting Morgan

It has been an honor working with people through Lost and Found. The passion they show is remarkable, and the fact that they are so willing to help makes you realize how far you can reach out. I met Morgan two years ago, and as friends we immediately clicked together. Now, I am honored to be working with her to change the world together. Morgan wrote a brief article explaining the struggles she has witnessed, and why she cares so much about this organization. Throughout the next few weeks, we will be doing an introduction of all the members helping us spread through the United States. So, on that note, I present Morgan’s thoughts.

 

It was about a year and a half ago that DJ came to me asking me to join, and it didn’t take me long to become highly involved and passionate about this organization. My passion comes from many sources, both general and personal. For starts, I’ve had 5 school-mates commit suicide between high school and college. I knew a couple more than the others, but although I wasn’t very close to any of them, I was close to people that were close friends and family members of them. In each tragedy, I watched my community come together and mourn our loss. I saw how many people were affected by each death, and have wondered if that person would have decided to follow through if they had any idea how many people cared about them. Also, I’ve had a number of friends that have come to me admitting to attempting or thinking of suicide. Thankfully none have been successful, but it is very evident to me that suicide is something that needs to be addressed, and those suffering from these thoughts need help.

 

The personal source of my passion stems from what happened during my last two years  of high school.  Right before junior year, my parents separated. My mom started her own business and my dad moved states away to start a new job (I only saw him about 3 times during these two years). I moved into the city with my mom and siblings to live near the store, so thus, I had to switch high schools. As the eldest child, there was a lot of expectation of me to help get the store running, and to help with my younger siblings since my mom was newly insanely busy and my dad was no longer around to help. Then, right before senior year, my mom had a surgery which shouldn’t have been a problem, except her wound became infected which caused her recovery to stretch for over 6 months. If it hadn’t been for recent developments in technology, there would’ve been a good chance that she would’ve passed away.  During this time, I was trying to apply for colleges, taking advanced classes, taking care of my siblings, either visiting my mom in the hospital or taking care of her at home, and helping her run her business from her bed. Luckily, when I changed schools, I became very close to someone. This person was able to help me through my roller coaster of emotions and keep my sanity.  But, this person was dealing with severe depression and had times of suicidal thoughts. During those two years, we helped ourselves by helping each other. We picked each other up when the other was down and were able to work through any problem that arose on either end. I will say that I have never been suicidal, but I am not sure how I would’ve coped with everything that happened during that time, if it hadn’t been for that person.

 

Suicide seems to be a bit of a taboo subject and one of my missions with Lost and Found is to break that. People need to realize that they aren’t alone in their problems and that help is available if they just ask. I also want to get people to realize that it only takes one person to make a difference in another person’s life, that reaching out to someone can change their life. Suicide is preventable, many times all it takes is to be a friend to your neighbor.

Paradise Found Tour

It has been two years since we started Lost and Found, and for two years there have been roadblocks preventing us from pushing ourselves to the limit, but not anymore.

Today, Lost and Found announces their Paradise Found tour. This week is national suicide prevention week. It hurts, for a lot of us. We have all known someone who has struggled with this, and many of us have experienced a friend, family or community member who had simply lost hope. It hurts. Suicide seems to constantly be an uphill battle, and no matter how much you fight it, there is always going to be someone who didn’t listen or didn’t see there is a community of millions of people that care about them.

We are here to change that.

Back when we started Lost and Found, we were told we couldn’t do it. During suicide prevention week, some kids told us that writing love on our arms was pointless, that people wouldn’t know that we truly cared. From that silly argument, we created a community of over a thousand people in a short amount of time, and we never stopped growing, and I will do everything I can to prove that people do care, that there is hope, and that we are making a difference.

John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, did write about the loss of something greater than yourself, but he also wrote past that. He said, “With Hope, farewell Fear.” We have seen some dark times, where people believed there was no hope, where people have struggled with an internal battle, and the hardest part is sometimes we cannot see what is going on. Sometimes we aren’t able to be there for our best friends and our family because they don’t realize how much we care, how much they matter to us.

That is why we are going to show the world how much hope we have, and we are going to show the world that together, hand in hand, we can drastically change what people see. We are going to spread hope as far as possible. We are going to make a difference.

The Paradise Found tour is exactly about that. Starting today, we are going to push forward. Our goal is through this tour, we will be in all fifty states by January 1st, 2013. It is people like you that join Lost and Found’s cause and bring it to your schools or communities that makes people see there is hope, that they can get through the hard times and find happiness.

Of course, this isn’t possible to do alone, we really need YOUR help. Whenever you are free, we would love you top spread word of our movement.

  1. At 5:00pm central time on September 11th, We are posting a status on Lost and Found- Suicide Prevention‘s page… what we need you to do is share that status.
2. If you are willing, Lost and Found will have a new banner, if you changed your profile banner to that, we would love it!
 3. (This is the most time consuming one) … We are going to be doing this all night, but if you could go through your friend’s list on facebook and tell them about this and ask them to 1. like the page 2. share the status and 3. tell their friends … that would be great.   If you are willing to help us with this, great. If not, that’s fine, but this is our goal, and we won’t be able to do it without the help of our supporters.
I firmly believe good things grow by themselves, but good things also need a push to get moving. Thank you for helping us get to this point.
Thank you guys so much for everything you have already done on campus, it means so much to us.
Together, we can, and we will change the world.
DJ Smith
Founder of Lost and Found

The Beginning of Lost and Found

You know, I never thought that an argument on the internet would be productive.

I furiously slammed my keyboard until the tips of my fingers hurt. On February 14th, 2009 there was an event supported by To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) asking people to write “LOVE” on their arms in order to spread word about TWLOHA and to remind people they are loved. TWLOHA is a national non-profit dedicated to

suicide prevention, stemming from a story about one girl who struggled with depression and addiction. A group of friends helped her, and their love was soon seen across the globe, more and more people joining their cause to fight depression. On this facebook event page, anyway, were two people that went by the names Zach and Tracey. For the past three hours, Zach and Tracey have been telling me that TWLOHA is a terrible organization, saying that simply writing “LOVE” on your arm would not accomplish anything. We went back and forth for what seemed like all afternoon, going on until the sun was down. I kept telling them how wrong they were, how To Write Love on Her Arms was an amazing organization, and how they should not be hating on it. They kept telling me that saying and doing are two different things. As much as I thought it was wrong that they were talking poorly about TWLOHA, I did want to step up and do more, and I was determined other people wanted to do the same.
Finally, someone had my back, a girl from Michigan named Kayla. Thank god, I was starting to think I was literally the only person who believed in TWLOHA and their cause. However, very much unlike me, Kayla said that arguing with people on the internet was a waste of time. After pulling out what felt like every hair in my head, I sent Kayla a message, saying we should team up and prove Zach and Tracey wrong. When she said yes, I felt like I had just created a faction that would rival those two for a while. We created the facebook group, “Doing more than writing ‘Love’ on my arm,” with the intent of doing something actively to help people who were struggling with depression or suicide.
So Kayla and I made a group. We invited some people, and I never will admit it, not even to my closest friends, but it was a complete failure. It had maybe 50 people in it. We wanted to do something, but never had the motivation to make the group move. So, I sat on facebook, proud of what I did, even though it was a small group. I did some more research on suicide prevention, finding my home state, South Dakota, had the highest suicide rate in the country on the World Health Organization website. I also found out someone dies from suicide every 17 minutes. I immediately thought about why I was so passionate about this. I had known people who struggled with suicide and depression. Even then, it didn’t stop at knowing people. Since the death of a close friend two years prior, I had dealt with feelings of depression. Even with that, I was also only, like, 16 or something at this point in time. What can a 16 year old do about anything? I knew how effective it was for people to be reached out to when they are in need, I had been that help for people before, as people had been there for me. Some of my closest friends, their family members, it seemed everyone was struggling just to stay alive. Unfortunately, at this point in time, this facebook group was just an idea. It was two high school kids who wanted to make their mark, grown to fifty high school kids who wanted to create a movement.
I slammed my computer shut, satisfied that I showed Zach and Tracey up. I then left the group alone for a solid ten months, occasionally looking at the group, but just forgetting about it, remembering exactly what Zach and Tracey said, saying is one thing, doing is another.
Those words haunted me until January 1st, 2010.
I woke up and stretched my arms. It had been a long night. I turned on the water to the shower, feeling it and twisting the knob a hundred times until the temperature was at least partially acceptable. Trying to think through my pounding head, I was a little disappointed that I had not thought of a New Year’s resolution. I got out of the shower. I don’t know what happened at this point, whether God struck me with an idea or it was pure coincidence, I will never know. What I do know is that I was for some reason as I did my daily facebook creeping, finding out what everyone else had planned for their resolution, I was urged to check on this facebook group and remember the things I had wanted to accomplish. As of the past week, the group grew from 50 people, to a little over 1,000. I had found my new year’s resolution, and I knew immediately that something was going to come from this. I sent Kayla a message on facebook. She was in, again. I wish Kayla and I had communicated more between the time the group was made and New Years. Even though our contact is distant, it is substantial. I am so grateful to call her a friend. It is hard to explain, but a bond created over the internet because of such a serious issue does more than create business partners, it creates a friendship that stays stronger than the ones most people have in the real world.
“Promise me something,” I said to her, “Promise me that this will be more than a dream, this time.”
She promised, and that was the start of that. It was go time.
I messaged every member of the group, asking them to tell their friends about it and then formed the exact idea of what I was going to do with the facebook group. Each month, I would post 4 goals. These goals would be sent out to all members of the group, and would be pointed at helping someone either directly or indirectly that was suffering with depression or addiction. This went on for the months of January and February, when a girl by the name of Shiloh told me I should turn this into an event for FCCLA, or Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America. I did, and presented “Doing More” at the South Dakota state level for FCCLA, winning 1st place and being asked to speak about the group at the national level.
I went on to the national level. At this point, “Doing More” had nearly 3,600 members in the group completing the goals each month. If you take 3,600 and multiply it by 4 goals, that is 14,400 people that are affected by the group (potentially) each month. The goals went on until July of 2010, which is when Nationals was, making the total number of people affected up to 86,400. “Doing More” snagged first place at nationals as well, and this was the inspiration for me to turn this facebook group into something more.
There is this guy I know called the State’s Attorney that I go to when I need legal advice, or money because I am also a broke college student. I call him Dad, and he is the best father I could ask for. In a matter of weeks, I had something to work with.
It wasn’t until September that all the paperwork including the Articles of Incorporation and the Constitution were actually filled out, but “Doing More” had a name change, and is now known as “Lost and Found.” Kayla and I had sat down for another afternoon, about as long as we sat there arguing with those two kids on facebook nearly a year ago. The name just came to us, a play on words.
In September, Lost and Found was recognized as a non-profit organization thanks to the help of my father. Since then, it has grabbed quite a bit of attention for the media, and I have made public speaking into a part-time job. We have people interested in Lost and Found from coast to coast, a school in New York even wanting to start their own Lost and Found group to donate to the national headquarters. Our bank account was a little red box sitting in our treasurer’s room. Kayla and I had to recruit some people to help us with this. According to the paperwork my dad wrote up for us, we needed a “board of directors. Our little red box didn’t have much, but it was a start, and we were convinced that good things continue to grow. We worked hard. And we had finally made it.
The board of directors decided that Lost and Found’s direct philanthropy donates to two specific things. One: money raised by Lost and Found will go to family’s that are dealing with a loved one who either attempted or committed suicide. In these hard times, the last thing people should have to worry about is medical or funeral expenses. The second is to help colleges continue to provide free counseling or medication to students that are dealing with depression. MIT has the highest suicide rate out of any university in the country, and if we could help them with their counseling center, that would be amazing for the students struggling.
Today, I still work with this thing. I call it a “thing” because I have no idea what it is yet. It started as an argument. Then it was a school project thanks to that girl named Shiloh. I still owe her a thank you. Who would have known it would grow into such an amazing organization?
This has grown bigger than I had first imagined, and like I said, I don’t see us slowing down any time soon. Lost and Found is seen on quite a few college campuses and high schools. Lost and Found will continue to grow and continue to have an effect on not only the United States, but the world. If we can make the difference in one person or one family’s life, then we have already accomplished our goal. If we can help more, then nothing is going to stop us from doing so, because we legitimately care about what is happening and we are determined to change this huge issue.
If we are the ones that need to step up to the plate and tackle this problem, then who is going to stop us? Kirsty Spraggon said that the magic recipe to living out your boldest dreams is simply a pinch of delusion, a dash of audacity, and a shot of courage. Maybe we are delusional for thinking on such a large scale, overconfident in success, and blind with courage, but it hasn’t stopped us yet.