SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Erik Muckey gets to honor his friend every day he goes to work.
But that’s made the last few days harder for Muckey as his longtime friend and co-founder of Lost&Found – Dennis John (DJ) Crawley-Smith – died Monday morning from brain cancer, which was diagnosed in 2016. Crawley-Smith was 30-years-old and had recently married his husband Ben Crawley in August 2021.
“It’s incredibly hard,” Muckey said. “You don’t get into your early 30s thinking you’re going to lose your close friend to cancer. Cancer sucks. That’s the simplest way I can put it.”
Lost&Found is a non-profit organization aiming to do more to eliminate suicide among young adults in the United States. The organization has grown from Crawley-Smith’s initial idea to providing services on college and tech school campuses in South Dakota and Minnesota. The organization celebrated 10 years in 2020 and the organization’s programs and digital content reached more than 2.3 million people in 2021.
“It’s always about DJ’s vision for me,” said Muckey, who has led the organization since August 2014 and currently serves as the executive director. “He pulled me into this. He grabbed a group of friends to get this started. I know how much this means to him. I know how much that impact meant to him and how much of an impact he’ll be able to have through this organization.”
Muckey said Crawley-Smith, who grew up in Mitchell, met a woman online – Kayla Roszkowski of Dearborn, Michigan – when they were each 16.
“Typically a Facebook argument doesn’t lead anywhere, this is the lone exception where it did,” Muckey said. “They came up with a Facebook group getting people thinking about what people can do more than just raise awareness about suicide. What can we do more to prevent suicide in our community.”
Muckey said the Facebook group was used as part of a presentation for FCCLA which Crawley-Smith used at the national conference.
“Coming home from Chicago, he grabbed a group of his trusted friends, myself included, and said what can we do to do more and how can we live this out,” Muckey said. “That was how Lost&Found was born.”
Crawley-Smith graduated from Mitchell High School in 2010 and then attended the University of South Dakota, where the first Lost&Found chapter was launched.
After graduating from USD, Crawley-Smith worked on a gubernatorial campaign and then joined the Peace Corps in 2015 where he served in Makabako and Iringa in the country of Tanzania in Africa. He completed a Master of Arts degree from the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies in 2019 and worked as a Census Field Supervisor the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent 2020 census.
“They may not have heard of his name, but the ripple effect of impact he’s created through suicide prevention work, through student government and just day-to-day interactions he’s had with people, you can’t replace that,” Muckey said. “That multi-generational impact will be something our state will feel for a long time.”
A South Dakota service honoring Crawley-Smith will be at 10 a.m. April 2 at the Bittner Funeral Chapel in Mitchell. The family is asking for a donation to Lost&Found or to volunteer to help in your community as an alternative to plants and flowers.
The Smith family sent KELOLAND News this statement:
“Really as a family we want everyone to honor DJ by living compassionately and paying it forward. DJ taught us all that joy is critical and taking care of one another is necessary. We are all connected and a small bit of kindness goes a long way.”