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Hilinski’s Hope Highlight: Spotlighting the programs

Here’s what they’re doing with the money you give.

As you surely know by now, we are in the midst of our UNIT3D for Hilinski’s Hope campaign. On Monday, we encouraged you to pick up your T-shirt by reminding you why we’re doing this. Wednesday, we let you hear from the Hilinskis themselves.

Today, we’re going to highlight the tangible work the foundation is already doing in pursuit of its mission. Hilinski’s Hope already has brought workshops featuring Behind Happy Faces and Step UP! to multiple universities, including WSU, Idaho, Eastern Washington and Montana State.

Additionally, the Hilinskis continue to tell their story to audiences across the country, making the case for the importance of mental wellness — most notably as the keynote speakers at the ACC’s Mental Health and Wellness Summit in May. Read more about that here.

What follows is a story we wrote a year ago focusing on the effort at WSU, republished in its entirety. When you’re ready, go get your shirts at The campaign closes on Sunday, August 25.

On Sept. 9 — one day after the Washington State Cougars open their home football season against the San Jose State Spartans — a collection of student-athletes, coaches, and staff members from a cross section of sports at the school will attend a one-day training featuring a pair of experts in the mental health field.

It’s literally a “first of its kind” program.

And it’s all paid for by Hilinski’s Hope.

“We can’t send an athlete down the hall to the counselor’s room to fill out an intake sheet, and then fill out another one when they leave three years later. It’s not enough,” said Kym Hilinski, Tyler’s mom and one of the driving forces behind this initiative. “You have to train them. You have to train them that it’s OK to speak up, and it’s OK to tell someone you need help.”

The workshop will blend the approaches of a pair of programs: Step UP! Bystander Intervention and Behind Happy Faces: Taking Charge of Your Mental Health. It’s the first time these trainings have been presented together.

Doug Everhart of UC-Irvine will be there on behalf of Step UP!, which, according to the organization’s website, “is a prosocial behavior and bystander intervention program that educates students to be proactive in helping others.” It has four goals:

  • Raise awareness of helping behaviors
  • Increase motivation to help
  • Develop skills and confidence when responding to problems or concerns
  • Ensure the safety and well-being of self and others

Check it out:

Meanwhile, Ross Szabo, who is the director of wellness at the Geffen Academy at UCLA, is bringing his mental health curriculum, Behind Happy Faces. According to his website, “The goal of the curriculum is to give students the tools they need to address mental health effectively, by providing a more complete education of mental health, understanding of brain development, teaching participants about coping mechanisms, and showing the important steps to help a friend in crisis.”

In short: The programs will focus both on how to identify and intervene on behalf of a person in need, and also how to identify and intervene on behalf of an individual’s own mental health needs.

“These are two empirically based programs that we know work,” said Jerry Pastore, the associate AD for student-athlete development and well being at WSU; he’s coordinating the event from the school’s side. “We’ll have all the right people around the table. It’s a unique opportunity to hopefully develop a program that other schools can adopt and be able to use.”

Said one anonymous student at the University of Arizona: “Step UP! has stayed with me over time because of the general principles it teaches — it changed my thinking. When I was faced with basic, everyday decisions it impacted how I handled them. It’s a great program that establishes the right thinking patterns.”

One of the key factors here? Hilinski’s Hope has also hired an independent researcher — David Wyrick from UNC-Greensboro — to collect data and track the efficacy of the program.

“It’s ‘learn as you go.’ That’s the nature of developing a program,” Pastore said. “We’ll put the pieces in place and then evaluate it.”

While Pastore called it a “pilot program,” he feels confident it’s going to be effective and lead to measurable change at WSU — and beyond.

And, he said: “The foundation has made that happen.”

Beyond is already on the table: The day after the training, Everhart will head up to Cheney to meet with Eastern Washington athletics director Lynn Hickey about starting programs there, as well. That’s also paid for by Hilinski’s Hope.

Frankly, the speed with which Hilinski’s Hope has put together this kind of program is fairly incredible — new foundations typically aren’t able to do this sort of thing this quickly. That Hilinski’s Hope has been able to is a testament to two things: 1) The determination of Mark and Kym Hilinski to not waste any days in their effort to help prevent another tragedy; and 2) the financial support of so many generous donors.

Get your UNIT3D for Hilinski’s Hope shirts at

And always remember:

If you feel like you are suffering in silence, tell someone and don’t be afraid to seek out help. It can get better. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 Holiday Bowl - Washington St v Michigan St Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images