'Profound generosity:' The Hilinskis share Tyler's story to help others

The Hilinski Family courtesy

I've witnessed up close a profound form of generosity recently, and I'd like to share it with you.

I cannot fathom the concept of losing one of my children to suicide or anything else, for that matter. The mind won't even go to that place. It is unthinkable.

So, I want you to think for a moment about the Hilinski family. By now you certainly know that Tyler Hilinski, the bright and daring young quarterback for the Washington State Cougars, took his own life this past January.

It almost broke the Hilinskis.


And when they were able to get up and face the world again, they did something incredible. They started a foundation called Hilinski's Hope. The idea is to raise money and funnel it back into teaching and educating young people about mental illness and depression.

The way they have gone about it is to use the story of their son's life to bring about the de-stigmatization and the tough conversations necessary to save lives.

But here's where the generosity comes in: in order for Hilinski's Hope to be successful, it has to be public. Word must be spread. And for word to be spread, stories have to be told.

And here's how that happens: reporters and news people and storytellers ask them about their son. Over and over. And they tell the story about his bright, happy soul. And they talk about what a normal, goofy kid he was.

Sports Illustrated. ESPN. The Seattle Times. Me. And not just the big ones, but student reporters too, and church groups, and classrooms and websites and on and on it goes.

And every single time they have to talk about his suicide. The why. The how. The what ifs. Over and over again they have to go into that closet with their tortured son and lay their guts out for the world to see, so that it can finally sink in to families and young people everywhere that it really can happen to anyone. That the world has changed and our young people need help. That it can even happen to kids like Tyler Hilinski.

And that, my friends, is a form of generosity that is hard to even fathom.

I've been there with them. I've seen the emotional toll it's taken. And I worry for the Hilinskis, but I've also noticed something.

I believe that the more they talk about Tyler, even though it tears them apart in some ways, it also makes them stronger. Because of that, this movement they are leading has taken on a kind of momentum, caused by and possibly even fueled by the passing of Tyler.

When you watch our documentary, "The Secret Sadness of Tyler Hilinski," please consider and marvel at the generosity of these people. It is truly profound.

Watch 10 p.m. Saturday night and Sunday at 3 p.m. on KOMO 4.

If you need help, or if you're worried about a friend or loved one, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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