Michael Glynn Coalition

by Siri Stevens

Joyce has taken tragedy and made it a triumph for others.

Joyce and Roger Glynn are the sponsors of the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association State Finals Memorial performance in memory of their son, Michael. “We’ve always supported the state finals in one way or another, and we decided to be the sponsor of that night,” said Joyce. “The night of that performance, they recognize people, from contestants to fans, that have passed with pictures on the jumbotron. During that, a riderless horse is in the arena, in honor of Michael.”
Michael Glynn passed away in 2006, his senior year. He had just signed to rodeo for Chadron State College as a bull rider. Michael had come up through the ranks from NLBRA to SDHSRA and the future looked bright for the 18-year-old from White River, SD. On the night of his graduation, May 14, he went out with his friends. “That night we told him to be safe. We were planning to move cows the next morning, and since it’s a 25-mile drive to our house, we told him to stay in town.”
The sheriff pulled in the driveway the next morning with the news that Michael had been in an accident. “On our way to White River, we saw his car rolled over in the ditch about 7 miles from town – it happened at 6 or 7 in the morning,” recalled Joyce. “He had tried to drive home.” Michael was flown to Sioux Falls, five hours away, and two days later, Tuesday, after lunch, he was pronounced brain dead. He passed away the next day. Joyce and Roger made the decision to donate his organs. On their way to make the final funeral arrangements, they received a phone call that Joyce calls a ‘God moment.’
“They had retrieved 7 life-saving organs from Michael and those organs saved the lives of 8 people, including a three-month-old baby who got a piece of his liver. Michael lived for the number 8 – 8 second ride. And here, something rare and unique happened where he saved the lives of 8 people.”
The Michael Glynn Memorial Coalition was formed when their youngest son, Matt, was a senior. Graduations had become an anxious time for Joyce and they planned a graduation ceremony in White River, including a concert. The non-profit was originally formed to raise money for the alcohol-free party and on August 8, 2008, it became a reality. “Another God moment,” said Joyce. “His birthday was on August 7 and this was finalized on 8/08/2008. Those God moments have saved my life.”
Joyce was still working as the editor for the local paper Mellette County News and she saw an article accepting grant applications to help prevent underage drinking. The rest is history. Joyce began writing grants for substance abuse projects. “We got more people involved in the coalition and began making plans for programs and projects beyond one alcohol free dance.” The coalition has an office in White River and the group has produced and implemented curriculum for grade school students for both tobacco and alcohol. “We provide kids with the facts about what alcohol does long term,” she said. “Ten years ago, it was ok for kids to drink and now it’s not. The facts speak for themselves.”
“It’s awful that it took my son dying to understand what alcohol and drugs can do to kids. Michael had everything going for him – and it still happened to him. It was totally preventable. If we could have gotten that message to him in fifth grade instead of when he graduated, it might have made a difference. It’s making a difference now; it’s not overnight, but it’s a generational difference.”
Joyce devotes her time to the coalition, taking it one step further and becoming certified as a mental health first aid instructor. The end of February, she went out on her own to become a certified teen mental health first aid instructor. “I just finished giving that course to the seniors in our high school last week – the first one in South Dakota.” The course is designed to help students to see the signs and symptoms of a peer of theirs facing a mental health challenge. “We offer suggestions of what to say to them and what to do if they experience a friend or peer having a crisis.”
Joyce and her husband, Roger, own and operate a cattle ranch that was just recognized as being in the same family for 100 years. “Matt is slowly taking things over,” she said. Now 31, Matt lives on the ranch with his wife, Katherine, and they are expecting their first child in October. Their oldest daughter, Amber Johnson, is now 40 and lives with her husband, David, in Sioux Falls. They have three children – 20, 13, and 5.
“We aren’t going anywhere,” concludes Joyce. “Roger is slowing down, but he is still very active on the ranch. I go to town five days a week to work on some aspect of the coalition. I really enjoy helping kids learn about self-esteem and making right choices.”

[ “It took him dying for me to realize that – you never know when that one time will happen that they might not make it – you can’t risk it.” ]

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