The Day The World Stopped
January 16th of any year now will be a confusing and sad day for us. While we don’t feel much different any other day this date is particularly hard for one reason. It may be someone’s birthday or wedding anniversary, a proposal date or even some marking of an important milestone. For us, it will always be the day the world stopped. Our beautiful, talented, always smiling son Tyler ended his life on January 16th, 2018 without telling us why. Without mentioning he was struggling or asking for help. He left us that day and a tidal wave of destruction followed in his wake. But, in the times since he passed, we found that he also left us with his love and beautiful memories. Tyler, his brothers, our students, student-athletes, you and so many others have given us hope and help us push forward with Hilinski’s Hope.
We spent the beginning of January on a get-away with Kelly and Ryan, catching our breath and needed time together, remembering Tyler and learning how to smile and laugh again.
It’s A Necessary Thing To Do
From a sunny spot in the Caribbean, we flew to zero degree temperatures in Big Sky, Montana for the Sport Psychology Conference. This 12-year old summit brings together some of the strongest and most qualified licensed mental health professionals working with our student-athletes in the world today. Led by Josie Nicholson, Ph.D. and team and featuring Dr. Brian Hainline, CMO of the NCAA for the closing keynote talk. It’s always painful for us to present Tyler’s story, but it’s a necessary thing to do to honor the awesome person Tyler was during his life and important to bring the stigma associated with mental illness to its knees. We were lucky to be surrounded and supported by the very people we love the most outside of our family, those empowered to help our student-athletes manage their complex lives. We appreciate being able to speak directly to the student-athletes when we can, and are equally in awe of the work done out of view by these dedicated professionals.
There are too many professionals to start naming here, but they know us well enough to know we are their biggest supporters. Dr. Hainline was particularly open and honest about the need to continue this work and we are grateful for his support and partnership through the NCAA Sports Science Institute. We left the beautiful mountain resort conference worn out but hopeful that we will continue to help our incredible student-athletes care for their mental wellness. The support and feedback from this group for H3H were palpable and their “pass the cap” impromptu personal donations to H3H the last night was a typical act of those whose careers are dedicated to helping others. We remain deeply appreciative and honored to be a small part of their world.
Those Were The Most Amazing Days
From Montana, we traveled to California to speak at the Rotary’s World Peace Conference. While in CA we spent a few days in Claremont, the town we raised all three of our sons. Our hometown hasn’t changed much. Flanked by the prestigious Claremont Colleges: Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, and Pomona Pitzer; intersected by the well kept city streets and beautifully, manicured yards eclectic enough as to not feel ostentatious. Home to some of the finest people and small businesses you’ll ever find. We were back home. Only, we weren’t and it was simply too hard to stay too long. The house where we lived and loved is still beautiful but today it’s meant to nurture and protect another young family with athletes, students, animals, and love. We put flowers on Tyler and Nana’s bench in the Village and walked through our old town, remembering the 4th of July parades, Easter Egg hunts in Memorial Park and the little league field where the boys hit home runs and ate their first hot dog. Our Lady of Assumption school sits quietly on a tree-lined street where the boys studied and played and where we went to Church to pray. Those were the most amazing days, we knew it then and luckily appreciated them all. We just never expected it to end so suddenly or abruptly.
We were touched by a kind act of a young man this month, Anthony Gordon “Gordo,” a former teammate of Tyler’s at Washington State University. A couple of months ago Gordo asked us if he could wear Tyler’s 3 in the College Senior Bowl to honor Tyler. Of course, we said yes and were so grateful that he wanted to bring Ty with him. As he said to us, this would have been Tyler’s Bowl Game, not mine. But, it was yours Gordo, and we know Tyler was watching over you, very proud of the way you played. Leading 3 touchdown drives seemed perfect. You are our MVP!
We’ve spent the last week attending a First Responders Banquet in Greenville, SC, a USC Ice Hockey Game for H3H, sharing Tyler’s story with the student athletic trainers at USC and fly this week to Indianapolis to attend the Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values to be part of their mental health panel.
February will bring much more travel, sharing and helping others and we’ll be sure to keep you updated.
We will continue to work hard for you and are reminded daily that taking the time to be thankful and acknowledge the blessings we have in the present is important too. We are very thankful for all of you and your incredible support.
With hope and love,
Mark and Kym