Hilinski’s Hope: late WSU QB’s family makes it their mission to honor him, help others
SPOKANE, Wash. — Tyler Hilinski was a beloved son, brother, teammate and friend to so many. If you ask his mom Kym and brother Kelly about him, they’ll tell you he was able to light up any room and put everyone he met at ease.
“He was a beacon to every room he walked in,” Kelly said. “He was a light that people kind of gravitated towards.”
It’s why, when Tyler — a standout quarterback at Washington State University — took his own life in January at just 21-years-old, his family couldn’t believe it.
“There’s nothing that led you to believe that Tyler was depressed, or sad or having these kind of thoughts,” Kym said. “Nothing.”
Losing Tyler left Kym, Kelly and the rest of their family with so many questions.
“You question yourself,” Kym said. “You ask yourself, ‘what did I miss?,’ ‘what did I do wrong?,’ ‘why didn’t I see it?'”
Kym said the Hilinski’s had to move on to a different question — “how?”
“How to honor him, how to keep his name alive and how to stop this from happening again,” Kym said. “How to make something good come out of this terrible tragedy.”
They found the answer in Hilinski’s Hope — a non-profit founded by the Hilinski family that sets out to promote mental health among student athletes and change the conversation surrounding mental illness.
“Student athletes are expected to be these stable human beings that have no feelings, they’re tough, they’re the strongest, they don’t feel emotion,” Kelly said. “They’re just expected to go out and perform each and every day.”
This week, Kym and Kelly are setting out to spread their message and build on Tyler’s legacy. They’re taking a road trip across Washington to thank those who have supported their mission so far. Kym and Kelly will make stops in Pullman, Yakima and Seattle before hiking Mount Rainier on Saturday, which would have marked Tyler’s 22nd birthday.
Kym and Kelly will bring Hilinski’s Hope wristbands with them on their trip. The wristbands are three dollars each and will help with fundraising efforts. All proceeds will help bring mental health programs and counseling to WSU student athletes.
“Our goal is to stop this from happening to another student athlete, to another family, to another brother and to another son,” Kelly said. “Tyler wouldn’t want that to happen. He wouldn’t want his death to be in vain. So, it’s not easy. It’s not fun, but this is our job now.”
Kym and Kelly say their message has spread across the country and across the world. They said they’ve sent wristbands to places like Ireland, Haiti and Paris.
“Who Tyler was will never die. His name will never cease to exist,” Kelly said. “We’re hoping to spread Tyler’s name. We’re hoping to scream it to the heavens and you know, get it out to every corner of the world.”
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