Attitude Inspiration Award: Judy and Dennis Shepard

Two decades on from the senseless slaughter of Matthew Shepard, his parents, Judy and Dennis, continue to support LGBT+ youngsters


Judy and Dennis Shepard have been honoured with the Inspiration Award supported by Virgin Holidays at the Virgin Holidays Attitude Awards 2018, powered by Jaguar.

On October 7, 1998, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was found tied to a fence in a field in Laramie, Wyoming.

The American college student had been left to die after being beaten, tortured and repeatedly whipped around his head with a gun wielded by two men he met in a local bar then hitched a ride with.

Five days later, Matthew succumbed to his terrible injuries in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

Arriving at the hospital, neither mum nor dad recognise their boy, who is on life support and hooked up to multiple machines, due to the severity of his injuries.

“His head was completely swathed in bandages, there were stitches closing wounds all over his face, his right ear had been torn away… he was so swollen and distorted, and already in the comatose position with his ļ¬ngers and toes curled,” Judy recalls in Attitude's November Awards issue. 

“But one of his eyes was still open, so I could see the blue and the long lashes, then the braces on his teeth.”

After doctors informed the family that should Matthew wake up that he would be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.

The Shepards are sure that is not what Matt would want, so they sign a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order. He died soon after, on 12 October, surrounded by the sounds of his favourite music and the familiar scent of the perfume that he had recently bought for his mother. 

Two months after Matt’s death — on his birthday, 1 December — they formed The Matthew Shepard Foundation.

Twenty years on, Attitude is honouring his parents, Judy and Dennis, and the legacy that they have carved out in their son’s name, with our Inspiration Award.

The award marks their campaigning work with The Matthew Shepard Foundation which provides a voice and support for LGBT+ youth, and teaches parents with children who are questioning their sexuality to love and accept their offspring.

Read more about the winners from the Virgin Holidays Attitude Awards 2018, powered by Jaguar in the November Awards issue of Attitude, out now.

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