As you read this, Kym and Kelly Hilinski — Tyler’s mom and older brother — have arrived in Washington and are preparing to tour the state in order to visit people who have been supportive of the family and its foundation, Hilinski’s Hope, in the four months since the WSU quarterback took his life.
Their journey will take them from Spokane to Pullman to Tri-Cities to Yakima to Seattle and then finally to Mount Rainier, where Kym and Kelly will hike on the mountain on what would have been Tyler’s 22nd birthday — May 26.
“The Hilinski Family is extremely grateful for the love and support you have all shown for Tyler, our family and Hilinski’s Hope,” said a message on the foundation’s Facebook page. “It is Kym and Kelly’s intention to make stops along the way to visit and thank as many of you as possible.”
To that end, the trip isn’t explicitly for awareness purposes, but it certainly has the practical effect of keeping alive Tyler’s memory and the mission of Hilinski’s Hope “to educate, advocate, and remove the stigma associated with mental illness for student athletes.”
“What we’re trying to do is just trying to change the narrative (around mental illness),” Kym Hilinski said via phone interview. “We don’t want anyone to be afraid to talk about what happened. We’re not afraid to talk about it. It’s sad, of course. But if it helps people to talk about it, that’s what we want to do.”
Hilinski said that she and her family have been “so touched” by the way Cougars have responded to Tyler’s death.
One very public example is Drew Bledsoe’s Be Bottle fundraiser for the foundation. You can still order yours:
In honor of Mental Health Awareness month we are launching a special Be Bottle initiative with all profits going to the Hilinski’s Hope Foundation. Please click the link here to learn more. https://t.co/jjs4rHqecl pic.twitter.com/Tmztv4ZqkA— Drew Bledsoe (@DrewBledsoe) May 2, 2018
People seem pleased with their purchase.
Happy to support such a great cause! Mental health is something that shouldn’t be hidden and there is no shame in asking for help. @DrewBledsoe @HilinskisHope #3 pic.twitter.com/hrcP6YoDG4— Rogan Goldblatt (@rgoldblatt4) May 19, 2018
There also are many other less-well-known contributions from countless small business owners across the state, such as SunWest Sportswear in Richland, where owner Debi Caldwell has made the popular Hilinski’s Hope bracelets available to customers.
“I didn’t do it for the publicity,” Caldwell told the Tri-City Herald. “I did it because it’s the right thing to do.”
If you want to get involved and you’re not near one of the retailers collecting donations, you also simply make a direct donation to the foundation via its website.
In the meantime, we’re all still waiting on WSU to announce its plans for addressing the mental health of athletes at WSU. In response to “In the wake of Tyler Hilinski’s death, WSU must do more,” university president Kirk Schulz tweeted:
We are working with the Hilinski family on many of the issues raised here. More details will follow in the coming weeks. #GoCougs https://t.co/Er0mbO6NJx— Kirk H Schulz (@WSU_Cougar_Pres) March 29, 2018
However, it’s been nearly two months, and there hasn’t been any public movement on the issue. Here’s to hoping something will be forthcoming soon.