DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - A Miami Valley family is keeping the legacy of their son alive by helping others through the gift of art.
There are many classes we take over the course of our lives, but not all of them can bring moments of hope and inspiration. Art is a language of expression that Sue and Russell West know well because their son Matt spoke it fluently.
"Because through the hard times, the good times, you could tell through his art when he was feeling up or when he was depressed," Sue West said.
Art was more than a hobby for their son. Through every brushstroke and detail, it was his escape from a cruel burden.
"He was just a very kindhearted person, but he struggled with mental illness all his life," West said.
That struggle ended in early 2016. At the age of 38, Matt lost his battle with mental illness leaving his parents heartbroken.
"I miss, just his presence," Sue West said. "Just being, I said, he was my good buddy. We did a lot together."
But Matt's legacy didn't end there.
"It was really exciting," Sue West said. "I felt really pleased and happy and I know Matt was smiling at what was happening. He really was."
With the help of the Dayton Foundation, the West family started a memorial fund in their son's name. An art class was born out of that and happens twice a month at the Miracle Clubhouse. It's a place for people with mental illness to come together.
"The clubhouses prevent isolation," said Kathy Trick, Miracle Clubhouse Coordinator. "And it encourage people to come out and be part of something. It's been so fantastic to see our members come together, work together and improve in their wellness and their growth."
"It gave us a good feeling to watch these kids do their project there," Russell West said. "The excitement they had knowing that without the fund they probably wouldn't be doing that."
"Even if it's just for an hour or moment of joy and excitement," said Sue West.
Moments of escape and expression. A class, bringing people together.
If you're interested in donating to the Matt West Memorial Fund you can click here.