FREDONIA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Chautauqua County man is helping children who have lost a parent to an overdose through his non-profit, COPE. It stands for Children of Opioid Parents and Empowerment.
The experiences of kids in this position hit close to home for Bill Matteson. He lost his son Justin to an overdose on January 5, 2019. His son left behind three children. Eight months after his son’s death, he decided to turn his tragedy into something positive.
“About eight months later it hit me that I want to do something to help out the children that are left behind from the parents that died of drugs. My son left three children behind and they’re taken care of, they’re fortunate, they’re all good, but there’s a lot that are not,” said Matteson.
He started the COPE Foundation to help those children who he said are often neglected in these situations. The program focuses on the four steps in the Circle of Light: doing fun activities, life coaching, faith, and physical fitness.
Bill’s fiancé Kristy helped him start COPE. Her best friend Elise died of an overdose four years ago and she left behind her daughter Xoey.
“We were best friends, we were inseparable, we did everything together, we skipped school together. I have a picture holding Xoey when she was only this big and I was like, ‘yeah my best friend had a baby,'” said Kristy.
She said this is for the kids caught in this situation without a support system like Xoey’s.
“There’s tons of children that have lost a parent due to drugs or alcohol and they don’t get the services the guardians get or the other parent that’s surviving,” she said.
Kristy and Bill hope to grow the foundation beyond Chautauqua County and encourage anyone to reach out to them for help.
Bill said this started to honor his son but he’ll be helping many other kids in the process.
“Everything he wanted to do was to help people, it wasn’t about him so much, or ‘oh poor me.’ Everything he wrote about was to help people so he would be extremely happy and pleased,” Bill said.