After son's overdose death, West Dundee family launches initiative to raise money, awareness

  • After her son, Mathew LeBlanc, died of a drug overdose last May, Nicole Caceres of West Dundee and her family launched a T-shirt business to raise awareness and money for drug prevention organizations.

      After her son, Mathew LeBlanc, died of a drug overdose last May, Nicole Caceres of West Dundee and her family launched a T-shirt business to raise awareness and money for drug prevention organizations. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/21/2021 10:15 AM

Mathew LeBlanc's original artwork adorns the walls of his family's West Dundee home.

A framed printmaking piece in the foyer. A high school self-portrait in his childhood bedroom. A detailed drawing of musician Tom Waits above his bed, created entirely with a ballpoint pen.

 

LeBlanc's talents were vast and his personality extraordinary, his mom, Nicole Caceres, said. He kept notebooks full of whimsical drawings. He made jewelry, like the ring she was wearing proudly on her finger. He could juggle and walk on his hands and dice an onion in under a minute. And he had a way of connecting with students while substitute teaching, hoping to eventually get a permanent job as an art teacher.

LeBlanc died May 19, 2020, from a drug overdose at 24 years old, forever changing the lives of his parents, siblings and those who knew him, Caceres said. His family is now determined to honor his memory and make waves in the fight against the opioid crisis through a new initiative, Love LeB.

The shirts and hoodies sold through the homegrown T-shirt business feature one of LeBlanc's original designs, along with his artist signature under the moniker, "LeB." Proceeds are being donated to Shatterproof, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the stigma and reversing the addiction crisis in the U.S.

"It's really giving us some peace and allows us to make a difference and get Matt's art in the world," Caceres said.

Drug prevention organizations like Shatterproof and Arlington Heights-based Live4Lali have been critical to Caceres as she grieves the loss of her son, she said. Joining in on the action and sharing LeBlanc's story have contributed to the healing process for her and her daughters.

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"It sucks, don't get me wrong. I'm sitting here thinking I shouldn't be having to do this," Caceres said. "But it's really given me a purpose ... and the support from everyone has been phenomenal."

Love LeB launched earlier this month and sold 150 shirts within the first week, she said. A Facebook page was created to share the details about the initiative at www.facebook.com/artforaddiction.

A memorial page in honor of LeBlanc also is featured on the Shatterproof website, shatterproof.org/memorial/mathew-leblanc.

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