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A Day in the Life: Lynn Riordan, Founder of Matt's Mission

Lynn Riordan shares with Patch what her life has become since the tragic death of her son, Matt Picciuto.

Lynn Riordan of North Branford protected, shaped, nurtured and taught her children to the best of her ability, just as any mother strives to do. Every day she tends to the needs of her four children Elise, Alexa, Mea and Matt. 

Her routine is unique, though, in that her duties as Matt’s mother now entail carrying out his last wishes.

On May 23, 2009, Matt was travelling along Totoket Road, as many others do every day. What started out as a young man’s joy ride, though, ended in heartache. Matt passed away after he crashed his car while riding the winding and steep road too fast.

More than two years later, Lynn chose to muster the super strength that only a mother could summon and has established one of North Branford’s fastest growing non-profit organization–Matt’s Mission.

In Matt’s yearbook, his quote said he wanted to make a difference. Lynn took this dream and brought it to life, establishing a in town and a scholarship fund for our neighbors in need.

The Matt's Mission Fund mission statement reads: "To raise funds to aide local students in need; to encourage everyone to slow down and to drive safe while raising awareness to the consequences of destructive driving decisions."

Lynn shared her journey to recovery, the work behind her mission and what a day in her life is like.

North Branford Patch:
How did you go about bringing Matt’s Mission to fruition?

Lynn Riordan: It all started because Matt wrote that he wanted to go to college, get a job, get married, make a difference and lead an interesting life. Most of that I can’t help attain, but what I can do is make a difference. It’s a strange thing to write, but I’m glad he did. I took that little bit and I ran with it.

I hired an attorney who specified in non-profit and it was a lot of paperwork. One day I was a mother and the next I’m trying to start a non-profit. We were raising funds a month later. We had a walk and a thousand people showed up and we raised $32,000. That’s a lot of money, so we decided to turn it into a  [to be held on ] and take legal measures–more people tend to sponsor if it’s tax deductible.

I never would have imagined I’d do something like this and it just snowballed. This one lady sent me an invite to a Valentine’s Day cocktail party at her house, she’s charging for tickets and the money’s going to Matt’s Mission. Another lady owns a karate studio in a plaza and they want to do an event with the whole plaza to benefit Matt’s Mission.

North Branford Patch:
What is your daily regimen to keep Matt’s Mission alive and growing?

Riordan: We get a break right after the race and until January, but then we hit the ground running and all the plans go into effect. I have a lot of energy, I’m sending out emails every day. For the Slow Down campaign, there was getting the signs out, designing them, picking them up; other things passed in town, like a banner across the road and Rte. 80 or Rte. 22. Someone told me I’d never get a road race in town and we did–832 people came in for the first race.

North Branford is a unique community. It’s based on a lot of love and concern. I was blown away by the support of complete strangers. The superintendent was new in town and he was so supportive. Everyone who knows Matthew knows that choice does not define who he was. What he did was atypical and he’s not to be judged. If this is something he could do, it’s something your son could do.

North Branford Patch:
Has this endeavor affected the grieving process for you and your family?

Riordan: It has helped me. I can’t say that it has helped my teenage daughters as it takes a lot of time away from them. There have been a few negative comments here and there, but it is a lot of work and it has definitely helped me. It’s very helpful because you accept reality. You just accept it a bit quicker.

North Branford Patch:
What is a typical day in the life of Lynn Riordan?

Riordan: I’m up at 6 a.m. to take care of myself, then I help my six-year-old daughter and get her to school. I’m a radiation therapist at Shoreline Medical Center in Guilford, so when I get a chance, I spend time on Matt’s Mission. Certain times are busier than others and sometimes there’s no time until night to work on it. I get home and then usually it’s off to watch my daughter play basketball or piano, then dinner, wash clothes–what everyone else does. My day is not defined by Matt’s Mission. I fit that into my day.

North Branford Patch:
Do you think the current driving laws in place are working?

Riordan: Statistics have proven that they’re going in the right direction. Deaths have drastically dropped, but that’s up until 18 and 19, once there are no rules to follow, which is where they do go back up. There’s really no benefit if you look at it that way. What would I do better, someone suggested if I have energy left over, there’s a program called Impact by MADD. It’s a phenomenal program, if they can do it, anyone could.

Kids getting tickets is not enough, they need to get involved in the program. It’s court-appointed, they pay $50 and bring a guardian if they’re under 18. It’s a two-hour re-education program. Paying fines is not enough. The parents are the ones paying the bills and hiring the lawyers and even if they’re doing community service, if they’re under 18 the parents have to attend.

It’s not just kids, though. An awful lot of parents are driving and on their cell phones–monkey-see-monkey-do. Kids’ brains aren’t fully developed, but parents should know better.

North Branford Patch:
Do you still speak at schools or support groups?

Riordan: At this time I have spoken at driving schools and . I hope to speak every year, I spoke this year and hopefully will next year. I talk to them about good choices and decision-making. I extend myself to East Haven, Guilford and Branford as the scholarship opened up to these places as well. My hope is that they will learn about the fund and why it was established. The worst thing for me is for people not to talk about Matt like he didn’t exist. He was friends with every different group he was well-liked and I want people to remember who he is.

North Branford Patch:
How do you feel today? Does it get easier over time?

Riordan: Everyone’s an individual and what I learned for myself, this is for me. No one can help you but you. You can be in the same household with the same loss, but all of you are on your own journey to heal and feel better. This has been very helpful for me, but it isn’t for everyone. These things are going to happen, some are going to be horrible, but you have  a choice to sink or swim and I chose to swim. I don’t want to have a bad life. I still have three children to care for and a husband who doesn’t deserve to see me like that.

North Branford Patch:
How do you find the energy to be there 100 percent for for your family as well as this Mission?

Riordan: Like I said, I have a lot of energy. You spend time taking your kids places, applying for college, piano lessons, prom dress shopping...Matt is a child of mine and I’m not ready to not be his mother. This is what I do for him. You’re shopping for them and you’re taking them where they need to go and this is the little bit for Matt. It’s just what I chose.

North Branford Patch:
What upcoming events should be know about?
Riordan:
Well, these aren’t just my events. Other people are creating events. Like , there’s 22 teams and one team decided to give to Matt’s Mission. The . A lot of people are doing their own fundraising for Matt’s Mission. I’m always reading about it, especially on Facebook.

North Branford Patch:
Where do the proceeds from Matt’s Mission generally go?

Riordan: I try very hard to advertise where everything is going. We’re out there doing a good thing. We donated . We’re in the middle of trying to get a  radar unit on a police motorcycle. Project Graduation–it’s an effort to get kids to stay together, off the road and at the high school the night of graduation. It does cost lots of money for that. We gave to Open Your Heart for the –$5,000 to that.

We gave baby formula to a family who had twins, a letter jacket for a very deserving boy, $3,000 to a college fund for a family, class dues not paid so kids could graduate, another child wanted to be a recording artist so we sent him to a studio, we gave money to the for kids who could generally not afford something like that, a laptop for kids for college, the Slow Down campaign, the scholarship fund–we gave five $1,000 grants last year. We try to do good things.

A gentleman not too long ago was in a bad accident and had a family to feed. Now he has recovered, but he wanted to support Matt’s Mission because he would have wanted nothing more than for his family to have been taken care of. He thought the whole idea and concept was great.

For more information on Matt's Mission, contact Lynn at mattsmissionfund@gmail.com 

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