Valentine’s Day is normally filled with roses and candy, happiness and memories of celebrating the ones we love. I had always been a mom to make a big deal of holidays and birthdays and just as I was staring at my son’s Valentine’s gift bag, our phone rang. At 8:37 pm, on February 14, 2021, our world changed forever. Notified of some sort of emergency, we drove down to his college campus. Our sweet Logan, 19 years old, was found dead and lying in his dorm bed. He had been there since early that morning. Logan took a pill and died from a fentanyl poisoning.
Logan was always a quiet, insecure and vulnerable kid. He was kind-hearted, soft, sensitive, yet funny and creative, and he always wanted to fit in. As a young boy, he was very attached to his family, felt safe at home and was reluctant to try anything new.
Logan was bullied as a child; I think because his kindness made it so easy for others to pick on him. He began therapy in 3rd grade, but he struggled with finding ways to verbalize and work through his pain and grief after two very close family members died. This eventually turned into anxiety and depression.
From age 15, we had attempted to help Logan in numerous ways and we made one last attempt at a faith-based 90-day elite dual-diagnosis program to help with his depression and substance use. Leaving our 15-year-old son in another state and flying home without him was the hardest thing we ever had to do. We flew there every weekend for family therapy and visits. He successfully completed the program, and our son came back at age 16 so much better. We had our Logan back! But once school started again, he fell back into marijuana use within weeks. He would never admit there was any drug use; it was always hidden and denied.
In the fall of 2020, he began college at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. We were hopeful of a new beginning. Logan came home on weekends for dinners, laundry, visits, etc. He also communicated with us daily via calls or texts but because of Covid exposures, visits were limited. The day before Valentine’s Day we received what would now be Logan’s last text message to us on our group chat. “Hi Mom and Dad, Happy Saturday! I am at work and just wanted to say I love you!” We both replied that we loved him too. Unbeknownst to us, this was our last message to him. The next morning, he was gone. He had most likely been laying in his dorm for almost 12 hours. Later we learned that he had been upset and was on facetime with his girlfriend for five hours. He took a pill, and minutes later, began snoring and fell asleep. His girlfriend did not know that snoring was the beginning of a fentanyl poisoning so she hung up the phone. For us, Valentine’s Day changed forever.
Numb, frozen but trying to hold it together for Logan’s younger brother, we drove home that night all in a state of shock. The memory and vision of seeing him in his lofted dorm bed will never go away; it feels like yesterday. But it also feels like forever since we spoke, texted and hugged him. I will never be able to use his personalized text notification or ringer again. Red was his favorite color, and he was found with a lobster stuffed animal lying next to him that I now hold on tightly to because all of the other things seemed to fade away with time. Our son was gone and we still have days of shock.
We started working with the university where Logan died to suggest increased education on campus. We were bothered that Logan’s friends didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know the signs of a drug overdose, and they were scared to call for help. We pushed for Narcan stations to be installed throughout campus and for posters to be hung to warn kids about the dangers of fentanyl and fake pills. Our communications resulted in Narcan station installation and posters hung across campus, helping to increase awareness. Just over a year after his death, in June 2022, we were invited to attend the inaugural DEA Family summit. We came back motivated in an unexplainable way to do more.
We are passionate about change, and we began to channel our grief in a way that would help others. Kids need to learn from their mistakes, not die from them. Kids are not scared of pills whether they are allergy meds, ibuprofen, antibiotics, anti-depressants, etc. We have a whole generation desensitized to swallowing something that now, can and does kill. Recently, this became more than just about Logan; it is about all the other kids out there that have lost their lives. It is about all the kids and families at risk. We formed a new foundation called “Love, Logan” in honor of him dying on Valentine’s Day, the day of love. Our mission is to be transparent about the struggles we went through as a family and use Logan’s real-life story to save as many lives as we can.
With fentanyl, Logan had no chance. Gone are the days that our children can easily battle an addiction or a temporary draw to substances to ease depression or anxiety. These are no longer “normal” times. Fentanyl has changed the game. We can teach our kids morals, values, kindness, integrity and more, but none of those things fight fentanyl. Love didn’t fight fentanyl.
I began finding many other Wisconsin parents who lost children and started to reach out to them. In a collaboration with others, including SOFA (Saving Others for Archie) and Song for Charlie, we launched a fentanyl awareness billboard in Wisconsin and New York City. Our Wisconsin board launched on August 1, the same day our county declared a public health emergency for fentanyl.
There is such a stigma in our world with kids who die from substances, but these drugs do not discriminate. Fentanyl has changed the game and kids are unknowingly being poisoned. They are not overdosing. Logan didn’t take too much of something and die. He took a pill and three different forms of fentanyl were listed in his toxicology report. Our children are being lured by dealers through social media to take something to feel better. ONE TIME can kill. ONE TIME did kill. If they survive, ONE TIME can give a child an addiction that they never intended to have. Our faith and belief that Logan was redeemed help us as we advocate for and help other families have conversations with their kids at an early age. Valentine’s Day is forever changed, but we also believe Logan was that special to give his life up on the day of love to save others.
Erin and her husband, Rick’s mission is to save lives through increased support and education in the community, to end the stigma associated with mental health and addiction and to raise awareness of the dangers of Fentanyl. To learn more visit https://loveloganfoundation.org/