Michael Glynn Memorial Coalition

by Rodeo News

story by Lily Weinacht

This summer, the Michael Glynn Memorial Coalition marked its tenth year of spreading awareness in the community and the state of South Dakota about the dangers of underage drinking. It offers support and educational opportunities in a variety of ways, including sponsoring a SDHSRA rodeo. Yet it also marks the tenth anniversary of 18-year-old Michael Glynn’s death, in whose memory the coalition was formed by his parents, Joyce and Roger Glynn.
An avid bull rider in the SDHSRA, SDRA NLBRA, and 4-H, Michael was driving home the night of his high school graduation, following a party involving alcohol, when his car crashed. Tragically, he died three days later of severe brain damage. “Michael admitted to us before the party that he would be drinking,” says Joyce. “We had punished him before when we found out he was drinking, but we thought that night he deserved to celebrate with his friends. We told him to do it responsibly and not drive home that night, but we found out too late that there’s no such thing as underage kids drinking alcohol and being able to do it safely. The question is, is it worth taking the chance on your child’s life to be their friend? Our answer now is no – the risk is too great.”
Before the Glynns formed the coalition, Joyce was approached by a friend, Kellie Yackley, about speaking on the radio station in Pierre, South Dakota, to students about drinking and driving. Joyce received a growing number of requests to speak at schools, and the Michael Glynn Memorial Coalition, a non-profit organization, was created. “It’s a community based coalition, and we’ve gained tremendous support through partners in our community, from the school district, parents, court services, and the state,” says Joyce, the coalition’s project director. “We helped implement a state law that makes it illegal for adults to knowingly host an alcohol related event on their property to underage youth. So many kids in the South Dakota area knew Michael, and ten years later, we’re still finding people who knew him. We’re keeping his memory – and his death – alive. It’s important to keep that message out there in order to expect any changes in the behavior or attitudes of youth and adults.”
The coalition’s influence in the schools it partners with begins as early as third grade, and goes through high school, where in the White River School District, an annual prevention day is held. “We bring in speakers on a variety of prevention topics, from explaining the dangers and the laws on drinking and driving, to tobacco and suicide prevention, and domestic and youth dating violence.” Two of the coalition’s undertakings that would perhaps have been dearest to Michael are sponsoring the White River Practice Rodeo, as well as SDHSRA members’ subscriptions to the Rodeo News. “The year after Michael died, the practice rodeo was cancelled. The community is very supportive of the rodeo and has a beautiful arena, so we decided to sponsor the rodeo. We’re able to give our message through pamphlets and materials that we give the contestants.” The coalition was unable to sponsor the rodeo this year when Joyce spent a month in the hospital just before the rodeo, but other members of the community stepped in, and the coalition will return to the role next year.
The coalition also offers scholarships to two boys and two girls each year, funded by the Hight family in memory of a local rancher and stock contractor, Don Hight. “The kids write an essay about what impact rodeo has had on their life. We get lots of applications every year, and we’re very moved by what the kids write,” says Joyce, who recently finished writing a book about Michael, titled From High School to Heaven. “I just couldn’t let Michael’s memory die with him,” she finishes. “Later, we found he had his goals written down and stuffed into pockets, like being SDRA Rookie of the Year, or competing on the Chadron State College rodeo team, or working on the ranch with his dad. Roger raises very docile cattle, and Michael’s goal was to raise bucking bulls. But all those dreams died with him, and it’s such a shame when something like that happens that could have been prevented so easily. Even though he died, I wanted his death to stand for something. The coalition is the direction we went, and our community is changing in a very positive way.”

Memorial Coalition’s Board of Directors - left to right - Jim Deutsch, Roger Glynn, Joyce Glynn, Matt Glynn, and Bob Hutchinson  - photo courtesy of the family

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