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The Ebb and Flow of Progress

The Ebb and Flow of Progress 

By Ryan Smith, Chairman of AHA! Board

On February 2, 2005, Debbie Smith MM, founder and CEO of the AHA! Movement, received a fateful call about her son, Matt. For Smith, a tower of fiery, bubbly inspiration, the month of February is gut-wrenching. Flashbacks, photos, the smell of the air, all act as whispery reminders of the senseless tragedy that claimed her son. It’s an ebb in her otherwise free-flowing quest to end the practice responsible for her son’s death.

I met Debbie in early 2015. It was the result of a mutual friend connecting the dots between the high school I attended and a son taken from his mom far too early. From that moment, I felt a kinship to her positivity, light, fire, and passion for the vulnerable child needing a voice. Her spirit seemed to flow forth with the conviction of a battle-tested general.  

This February marks the 15th anniversary of Matt’s death and the fifth anniversary of the AHA! Movement. From securing the first felony in a hazing-related death to Matt’s Law, to sharing Matt’s story for the first time, to the numerous news articles and documentaries, to forming the AHA! Movement, to securing the 5013C status, to developing AHA!’s ambassador program, to AHA!’s first college presentation, to the many citywide Hazing Awareness proclamations, to our first, large-scale fundraiser, to our middle school hazing prevention program, to the formation of ParentsUnited2StopHazing (PUSH), to the countless volunteers and devoted supporters; each act and result is an ardent example of the resilience, drive, and commitment alive within the AHA! Movement.

As we start a new year and decade, children are still losing their lives to the senseless act of hazing. Month after month, an innocent family is ravaged by the senseless death of a loved one. Whether it’s rush week, band tryouts, or the start of a football, soccer, swimming, or lacrosse season—you name it—groups invariably turn to hazing to vet and memorialize enrollment. It’s a practice that continuously proves to have deadly consequences. Yet, if I have learned one thing from AHA!’s general, it is the unique power of the human spirit and its ability to bring about change. Progress doesn’t happen in a vacuum or a straight line. It ebbs and flows with the rhythms of dedication and hope.

Together, through community, commitment, and awareness, we can end the tragic cycle of senseless deaths and give birth to a new generation of group dynamics founded on the backs of awareness, accountability, responsibility, and self-love. Join us, and be the change, support, and rising tide of hope young people so desperately need.

AHA! 2020

The AHA! Movement has a huge year planned! We are in the midst of redesigning our website, sponsored four 2020 PHBA sports teams, partnered with the Junior Giants to bring hazing awareness and prevention to coaches across the organization, and we have traction in expanding our middle school awareness program.

In early February, we are relaunching our ambassador program with the help of a bright young Chapman University student, Olivia Mello. In June, we host our second-annual Home Run Derby Contest in partnership with Payless Batting Cages at Willow Pass Park in Concord. In August, we host our second-annual Day at the Ballpark with the SF Giants. And in September, we host our fourth annual Monte Carlo Night, AHA!’s annual gala fundraiser. This year’s Monte Carlo Night is a must-attend as we have a monumental announcement to share. Thank you for your continuous support. Together we can and will save lives. For more information, please visit or send an email to Debbie Smith MM at [email protected]