Opening the door to healing
Stephanie and Luke Richardson could never have imagined that their bright, fun loving, 14-year-old daughter Daron would die from suicide. But when she did, the outpouring of sorrow and compassion from people across North America was matched only by the grace and dignity shown by Daron’s family in the devastating aftermath of her death.
Luke, Stephanie and their daughter Morgan coped by doing what was natural for them – they let friends and family into their home and into their lives. They have always had an open door policy, no matter where they lived during Luke’s extensive NHL career. In fact, their home has been a gathering place for so long that a young Daron designed a sign telling people to “come on in.”
After Daron’s death, her mother put that sign back on the door, where it has stayed as an indicator to mourning visitors that they are always welcome. “When we got back from the KRsSLWDO, Rur KRusH wDs fiOOHG wLWK SHRSOH DnG food,” recalls Stephanie. And it continued that way for months.
“I couldn’t walk, it was months before I drove a car again, my friends had to bathe and dress me,” remembers Stephanie of the dark days that followed her youngest child’s death. “Our community was so loving, it felt like one great big embrace – for us and for Morgan. All we felt was compassion.”
But the community wanted more than just to offer compassion – they wanted to make a real change, and many things began to happen at once. Initially, donations poured in for The Daron Fund, which the family had set up at the Royal Ottawa Hospital Foundation for Mental Health.
At the same time, three of Daron’s closest friends created stickers to be worn on hockey helmets in her memory. Soon, a local mom began making and selling bracelets to raise awareness and money for suicide prevention. And another mom began designing pins that continue to be sold by the Royal Ottawa Hospital to this day.
Daron’s death became a catalyst for a discussion about youth mental health that desperately needed to take place, and a movement was born. Called DIFD – short for Do It For Daron – it is a movement that has forever changed how people of all ages in Eastern Ontario, and across the country, think and talk about teen suicide and mental health.
“When Daron took her life it was an awakening for all of us because we could relate,” notes Kris McGinn, a friend of the family and now Chair of the DIFD Fund at the Royal Ottawa Hospital. “If this could happen to the Richardsons, this could happen to any of us.” The facts support McGinn on that. “Suicide
Our community was so loving, it felt like one great big embrace — for us and for Morgan — all we felt was compassion.
— Stephanie Richardson