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2016 Social Work Month Multimedia Contest: “Live Strong” from Sarah DeMaison

During National Social Work Month in March the National Association of Social Workers asked social workers to use media, including photos, videos, writings and spoken word, to express how they live up to this year’s theme “Forging Solutions Out of Challenges.”

Here is a photo and essay entry from Sarah DeMaison, a member of the NASW North Carolina Chapter:


John Matthew "Matt" Beck

John Matthew “Matt” Beck

I call this picture “Live Strong”. This is my husband John Matthew “Matt” Beck ; survivor of childhood cancer. Optimistic outlook on life. Always positive. Focused. Zest for life. He lived in the moment.

My husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer (unrelated to the cancer he had as a child) on July 10, 2015 and passed away just 18 days later. Even at the end of life he stated, “I know this will take my body, but this will never take my soul.”

When we were married on October 10, 2014 I bought him a shirt that said “Real Men Marry Social Workers.”

As a change agent, refusing to settle for what I was being told by a hospital, refusing to settle for a particular hospital who never had a treatment plan in place for my husband; I worked to have him airlifted out of that hospital to another hospital in a different state.

I worked with the surgeon; because no one else would speak up; not even the family of my husband. There was not another social worker to assist with the discharge; just the surgeon and myself to give my husband a chance. I advocate and educate and I educated many people in that particular hospital on how important it is to treat others; to care for others. You never know when someone’s spouse might be a social worker.

This is how I want him to be remembered. In this picture, it reminds me and encourages me to continue to do what I do To continue to speak up for those who are afraid; who are uncertain; who are unsure of themselves. To ask questions; to not just “settle” for an answer in order for me to stop asking so many questions.

To learn about more National Social Work Month activities visit


  1. Thank you for this beautiful story!

  2. This is an awesome article. I definitely admire your strength!

    • Hi Dana,

      Thank you for your support. I cannot thank you enough. Thank you for what you give to the profession of social work and counseling!

      Thank you for your kind words!


  3. Such a beautiful story. Stíll saddens me that you lost your husband so early in your marriage. Sometimes in the most challenging places, we find our voice. What a strong voice you have!

    • Hi Karen,

      Even in the darkest times of life when we think we don’t have a voice, it is somewhere and all we have to do is reach and keep reaching for that voice and it will become louder and louder. This is what we do in our profession! We are to speak for those who are unable to, or do not know how to, or educate and encourage them on how to (even when we, ourselves, are scared but we don’t always show it). I am blessed Matt was sent into our lives!

      Thank you for your kind words and for what YOU do for our profession!


  4. My sweet Sarah- there are no medals for your experiences. I’d like to believe that we are strengthened by that which challenges us. By that standard, you are one of the strongest people I know. You never cease to amaze me… how very blessed your clients are you have you in their corner AND I am so blessed to have you in my life. Love you so very much…keep writing…I’ll keep reading!

    • Dr. Nicole,

      As long as I am permitted to keep writing, speaking, etc… whatever is needed, you know I will!

      Thank you, Dr. Nicole, for your kind words and for what YOU do for our profession, including the education of future social workers…


  5. It sounds like you guys had a beautiful relationship. He was lucky to have you and will lucky to have him.

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