Say No for Nick

Kids sometimes don’t say much. How was school/practice/ camp/the game? “Fine.”

What’s new? “Nothing.” So when the youngest came home from his final exam a few weeks ago, I wasn’t expecting any revelations. How did it go? “Good.” Was it hard? “No.” He sat down. I looked over. “Mom,” he said, “Nick Cody died.”

It seems like just a minute ago that he came to me with other news. In fact, it was a few years ago and that time the news was shocking, not devastating. On the second day of school he came in, sat down and looked me in the eyes.

“My teacher needs help. Can you volunteer?” he asked. My jaw dropped. (Until then, the last thing he’d wanted was his mother loose amongst his friends and classmates. Who could predict what embarrassment might ensue?)

I volunteered. His lovely, very experienced teacher did need help. Her room was overfilled with action and personalities. That suburban elementary school was designed such that a number of the classrooms had doors opening into the library. The kids were often divided up for learning or assessment activities and sometimes I was in the library with a small group at a kid-sized table.

One morning Nick was there beside me. It was a science test with questions about habitats and food chains. A small boy with glasses and a shock of bristly hair, he was equal parts bravado and vulnerability as he gripped his pencil tightly, figuring out how to reply to the questions. I can vividly recall the teacher coming in, hovering over us to check the progress, and saying with affection, “Ah, Nick.”

He was so sweet. Loveable. He was loved. Nick Cody belonged to a loving, caring adoptive family. He died at age 18 of an overdose. He could be anybody’s child. In Nick’s honour, please hug your children close and celebrate their young lives.

A couple of weeks from now, tens of thousands of kids will be filing into local classrooms. It’s an exciting time of year and not just for students. New challenges and experiences await all of us. Some of us will be waving goodbye as our youngsters start new chapters in their lives at full-day kindergarten and at post-secondary school. The ABCs of Back-To-School Preparation on page 57 and The Great Beyond on page 61 offer timely information for those days ahead. And for families of young people with special needs, Potential? Unlimited on page 66 offers plenty of educational incentive. In fact, this issue of Ottawa Family Living is full of motivation. Join the conversation about mental health. Follow Denise Siele’s lead and become a volunteer. Cook up some quinoa, get the family revved up to play outside and plan a bewitching Halloween celebration. Most importantly, talk and listen to your kids. Keep the discussion open, keep your family connection strong and keep doing what it takes to empower them so they can speak up, stand up to peer pressure and, hopefully, say no to drugs. Do it for Nick, because he will be missed. xo

In honour of Nick Cody, you can contribute to the Say NO for Nick campaign. Money raised supports the work of Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services, an organization that makes a difference for people and families in our community.

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