On June 14, 2015, the world changed permanently for the family of Nick and Jack Savage of South Bend, Indiana.
“Saturday had been busy. Jack and his older brother, Nick, 19, had gone that morning to the job they shared moving furniture for a motor home manufacturer.
After their shift, the two standout hockey players — Nick, the quiet rule follower and Jack, the silly one who always had a smile on his face — got haircuts. They had a big night ahead, lots of graduation parties to attend.
At home, freshly showered and dressed, they joined their mom to attend a few of those parties together. Their dad, Mike, had taken the two younger boys, Justin and Matthew, to the family’s lake house to fish.
Later that night, Becky hugged her two oldest boys as they headed to another party. “Be home at a reasonable hour,” she told them. Becky didn’t go. She had grocery shopping to do, then she went home to wait up for her sons.
Just like clockwork, Nick and Jack sauntered in that night on time as they always did, a little after midnight. They checked in with their mom.
“I made eye contact with them,” Becky said. “We had a 2-story foyer and I remember them coming in and I was looking at them and they headed into the kitchen to make a snack.” Becky turned her light off and went to bed. Their late night snack finished, Jack went to his room and Nick, along with a few friends, headed to the basement.
Chills through her body
The more Becky looked at Jack that next morning, the more her concern grew. This wasn’t the typical scenario of not being able to get a teenager up.
She walked to his bed and nudged him, then tugged at him. Nothing.
Becky screamed for Nick to come upstairs from the basement. “I need your help! Nick! Help!” She ran to grab her cell phone and called 911, then rushed back to get Jack out of bed. She laid him on the floor and started CPR.
‘They experimented last night’
Becky had no idea, but at the same time she was calling 911 for Jack, those friends down in the basement had found Nick, just as Becky had found Jack — unresponsive. The calls came in to dispatch, two different calls from the Savage house for two different young men.
Just as the horror set in, her mind switched gears. What had happened in her house? Was there a gas leak? She couldn’t stop screaming. What happened?
One of her sons’ friends turned to Becky: “They experimented last night… with oxy.” Oxycodone. Becky was a nurse. She needed someone to give them Narcan, a medication designed to reverse the effects of opioid overdose. She started asking the first responders if they had any.
They just looked at her. It was too late for Narcan.
Nick and Jack Savage were pronounced dead inside their home on June 14, 2015.
‘They just didn’t know’
Someone showed up to that graduation party with a bottle of prescription pills in their pocket. Becky doesn’t want to know the details of who had them or what transpired that night.
“I haven’t asked,” she said. “Nothing will ever change the outcome of that night and I can’t beat myself up over details of wanting to know. I have to focus on things I can change.“She does know that Nick and Jack drank alcohol that night, which she believes impaired their decision-making and prompted them to try the pills.
The Savage family story struck a nerve in the community. Parents were terrified. If this could happen to Nick and Jack — star athletes with good grades who went to church and volunteered — it could happen to any of their kids.
Mike and Becky had talked to their boys about everything, all the stuff that they thought they were supposed to talk to their kids about — drinking, drinking and driving, illicit drugs, sex.
“But prescription drugs were not even on our radar,” she said. “Four years ago we had no idea that kids were even doing that.” Now, it’s the Savages’ mission to make sure teens and parents know what they did not. So no one has to live the nightmare they did — losing two beautiful boys on the same day.
“What I explain to kids is not only does that decision in that time affect you but it affects all your friends and your family,” Becky said. “We have a lifetime sentence now because of choices that Nick and Jack made. And they would never want that for us, I mean ever.”
And so, a year after Nick and Jack’s deaths, a year of focusing on family and Justin and Matthew, Mike and Becky made a decision. They would take Nick and Jack on a journey with them — to tell the world their story.
This was Nick and Jack’s story, after all.
Jack wore the No. 5 hockey jersey and Nick wore No. 25. Becky saw a photo of her four boys, Jack and Nick side by side making the number 525, and decided to name the foundation after that.
The 525 Foundation, a not-for-profit, brings awareness to the dangers of prescription drugs and the importance of disposing of unneeded medication. Becky speaks all over the country telling the story of that Sunday morning she found her two boys dead in her home.
Every single time, as she stands on stage, she looks into the audience and says to herself: “There is a Nick or Jack out there somewhere.”
In the three years since she began speaking publicly, she’s been blessed to hear so many stories of making a difference.
Parents tell her their teens are coming home to tell Nick and Jack’s story and starting crucial conversations. Teens are changing party plans, prom plans, graduation day plans.
As part of a drive started by the Savages, partnering with other organizations, their community has collected more than 6,000 pounds of pills. Becky has worked to install permanent pill drop boxes — called Drop 2 Stop — in local Martin’s supermarkets.
Words of advice from Becky Savage
— “Go home and clean out your medicine cabinets, dispose of unneeded medication.”
— “Have those conversations. Conversations save lives. If we plant that seed, maybe it will grow.”
— Create an exit plan you can execute if your teen ends up in a situation they want to get out of. For example, have a code word they text so you know it’s time to go pick them up, no questions asked.
— Encourage kids to have a friend on the same page. “We forget as parents how hard it is to go against the grain of peer pressure. Have a friend to do it with you.”
— “If your kids call you to pick them up, don’t get them in the car and give them the riot act and ground them from their phones for two months. You are going to be disappointed, of course, it’s normal. But your kid did the right thing and they are still alive for you to talk to them about it.”