FREDONIA, N.Y. — When the struggles of opioid abuse hit one Chautauqua County family, they decided to turn their pain into purpose. They're now trying to help other children who don't choose to have parents who are addicted.
Bill Matteson lost his son Justin to a drug overdose in January 2019. Justin tried many times to get clean and be a good father to his children, but the drugs had a tight grip.
"I tried to save him and I couldn't," said Matteson.
It was too late for Bill to help his son, but he realized he could help the children his son left behind.
"They're very strong children. They love daddy. They miss him," said Matteson.
Bill realized many children of addicts don't have the support they need. So he started the COPE Foundation which stands for Children of Opioid Parents and Empowerment.
"I thought of all the children that are left behind. I call them the residual effect. With no parent who died of drugs, they go to their grandparents or they go to foster care."
Bill and his fiancée Kristine, who are both recovering addicts themselves, along with other volunteers, help the Children in COPE focus on four pillars in what they call the Circle of Light: social interaction through fun activities, life coaching, physical healing, and mental health.
"We help them realize this isn't their path to the future. This isn't their fault," said Matteson.
They take the children to waterparks, the zoo, and on hikes. They provide emotional support. They let the children know that people in their lives care about them. And if families need support that COPE can't provide, Matteson will be a link and connect them with the services they need.
By creating COPE, Bill hopes some good can come out of his tragedy and that Justin didn't die in vain.
"Yeah, he'd be happy. He'd be very proud," said Matteson.
The COPE Foundation is currently helping children in the Fredonia area, with the help of donations and volunteers they hope to expand to more communities.
On October 24th from 10 am to 3 pm there is a craft fair being held at the Family Martial Arts Center in support of COPE Foundation. Call 716-410-5723 for more information.
To learn more about COPE Foundation, visit the website here.
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