MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Wednesday, a Cottage Grove family will gather to honor and remember 14-year-old Joey Iverson.
He was known at Cottage Grove Middle School as the “Adidas Kid.” That’s why on Wednesday, family and friends will wear their Adidas in his memory. Joey died by suicide last week.
His family is sharing their story with WCCO, with the hope it will save others.
Like many families, Joey’s family spent part of last week picking out a Christmas tree. They snapped a photo of Joey and his younger sister in front of the decorated tree.
“I said oh my gosh, Joey’s smiling,” said Joey’s sister, Lexi DuFour. “My mom said, ‘I didn’t even have to threaten him.’ He just, he smiled this time and we’re like he’s getting better, maybe it’s his season.”
But this season would be Joey’s last. Four hours after the photo was snapped, Joey killed himself.
“I feel like he knew deep down and he wanted to give that one last memory for his little sister,” DuFour said.
DuFour says her brother started battling anxiety around the 4th grade when he developed a fear of clouds.
“That’s when we were like something’s really going on here,” she said. “Since then, it’s been a battle to try and find something that puts him at ease.”
But his family says he often masked the depth of his pain with a shrewd sense of humor.
“We always said, ‘You’re lucky you’re cute,’ because he always was doing something silly and mischievous and funny,” Joey’s aunt Bri Beasley said.
A laugh they will forever yearn to hear again — and a pain that many others know.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in kids Joey’s age.
“Society teaches men it’s safe to be happy, it’s safe to be angry, that its not OK to be sad or afraid,” said Dr. Mark Lynn, childhood psychologist at Hennepin Healthcare.
But feelings need to be felt, according to Lynn, who says parents of teens should play close attention if teens are extra withdrawn or irritable.
“There’s no one risk factor; trust your gut,” Lynn said. “We know all of the research and theory, but you know your child the best, and if your gut says something is wrong, you want to go in and ask the hard questions right away.”
Joey’s family is hoping hard questions will spare others from the hardest loss they’ve ever known. Lexi says she wants good to come from her dear brother’s death.
“That’s my goal,” she said.
Lexi says she hopes to become a spokesperson for suicide prevention.
Joey’s memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at All Saints Lutheran Church. Visitation will begin at 11 a.m.
A GoFundMe for the family can be found here.