Family turns tragedy into mission to educate

11-year-old Matthew Bellamy

According to Washington Cease Fire, a group dedicated to dedicated to reducing firearm violence, last year 649 Americans died from accidental shootings. On that list, one Little River boy. Since then, his family is making his memory a mission to educate about gun safety.

Friday, January 22, 2010, was like any other Friday afternoon for 11-year-old Mathew Bellamy. His mother said he had gone home with a friend from school for a sleep over.

"He had a basketball game the next day, we had his uniform ready to go in the car and everything," Mylissa Bellamy said.

He would never make it to that game. Police say the boys found a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle lying on a bed at a friend's house. Bellamy's friend picked it up and it went off. Bellamy, who was standing just a few feet away, was hit in the chest. He died less than an hour later at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center.

The friend's mother was home at the time of the shooting. Officials say the rifle was left out after the family came home from a hunting outing earlier.

Mylissa says they thought they were cautious about gun safety. Her husband Chip and the families other son all hunted. But all of their guns were locked and placed in a locked safe.

"Kids in this area grow up hunting. They're around it all the time. It's just something people take for granted. We had never thought about it happening in someone else's house," said Mylissa.

It was September, Mathew's dad Chip says, when then parents started what they say is something that has brought them hope in the wake of their horrific loss.

"If we can save one from where we've been, we've done something," he added.

The family formed the Matthew Bellamy Project. The parents and friends travel to events, raising awareness about gun protection and safety. At a local car dealership Saturday, young boys practiced shooting BB guns and learned about hunting and fishing. The family passed out literature and free gun locks and they also raffled off a gun safe.

"We just think its a way we can spare another family from going through this and keep Matthews memory alive," Mylissa said.

To date the Mathew Bellamy Project has given out more than 1,000 gun locks.

They plan to hold a 1st annual Matthew Bellamy Memorial Golf Tournament on Saturday, August 13, 2011, at Tidewater Golf Course.