The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Hilinski’s Hope continues through love for Tyler

Over 150 schools to participate in 2023 Student-Athlete Mental Health Week
A WSU player holds up three fingers in honor of Tyler Hilinski, a former WSU quarterback who died by suicide in January 2018.

Trigger warning: This article contains references to suicide.

Tyler Hilinski enrolled to play quarterback at WSU in 2015. He played a significant role in the 2017 season when the Cougs went to the Holiday Bowl and looked poised to take the starting role going forward. In January 2018, Pullman Police found him dead by suicide.

In the aftermath of his death, his parents Kym and Mark Hilinski founded the Hilinski’s Hope Foundation (H3H), which started in 2018 and has grown immensely over the past half-decade. H3H features the two of them traveling to schools to give Tyler Talks about opening up about mental health and to help schools with mental health resources for student-athletes.

One way the Foundation has expanded is through its Student-Athlete Mental Health Week, which will be in its fourth year in 2023 and feature over 150 participating schools. The week runs from Sept. 30–Oct. 7 and aims to break down the stigma of the discussion around mental health, according to a press release from Hilinski’s Hope and PR Newswire.

“During Student-Athlete Mental Health Week, student-athletes and athletic departments across the country will participate in breaking down stigma, offering quality resources, and letting student-athletes know they are supported,” according to the press release.

Ryan and Kym Hilinski hold up three fingers in honor of Tyler Hilinski as members of Hilinski’s Hope raise the flag before the first home football game of the season Sept. 8, 2018, in Martin Stadium.

Hilinski’s parents said they started the Foundation as a way to remember their son and to try to be there to help other student-athletes in the position that Tyler was in.

“All we want to do is just touch and change and maybe save the life of a student-athlete. That’s our purpose,” Kym said. “Tyler is our reason for doing what we’re doing and that we keep his memory and name alive by sharing his story.”

Mark said the Foundation takes most of their time, becoming a year-round endeavor that sees them working 14–16 hours a day from booking times to do Tyler Talks to everything “on the backend” with paperwork and event planning. Despite the long hours, he said working on the Foundation is not something they get tired of doing because of the impact they have.

“I’m trying to do everything I would have done or I would want somebody to have done for Tyler. I’m doing that for your kids,” he said.

Kym said it is the love for Tyler and the love for student-athletes across the nation that keeps her going. Like Mark, she is doing her best to make an impact on young lives.

This year’s Student-Athlete Mental Health Week has the largest turnout of participating schools, having increased since it started in 2020. Mark said the first year they had 17 schools, then 56, then they got up to 125 or 126 schools last year before making yet another jump to over 150 in 2023.

Kym said the Foundation has worked with College Hill to put together and send out boxes, which contain Hilinski’s Hope paraphernalia and instructions for the week, to participating schools so the schools can engage with the week better.

While the Foundation has grown in terms of social media presence and participating schools in its mental health week, student-athletes who also aim to make a difference in the mental health discussion have taken notice of them. One such student-athlete is Caleb Williams, University of Southern California quarterback and founder of the Caleb Cares Foundation.

“I want to make talking about mental health normal. Hilinski’s Hope has turned a devastating life event into a force for good by taking action and creating Student-Athlete Mental Health Week,” Williams said. “Hilinski’s Hope is making talking about mental health normal. This is so important because we all have the power to help someone by simply reaching out and checking in. You never know what someone is going through and how you can impact them and maybe save a life.”

With 2023 being the fifth year anniversary of Tyler’s death, Kym and Mark said they have adjusted from crying every night to getting better at telling funny stories about their son and remembering the light he brought to their lives.

“There’s no way you can forget Tyler. He’s just that special and fun and wonderful,” Kym said.

Both have fond memories of Tyler and his mentality, especially with him being someone who Mark said always made sure that each day was special no matter what the family did together.

“It was like you knew you would have a great day with Tyler because it didn’t matter what you did. Asking him what he was going to do on any day, it was like, ‘I think I’m gonna throw rocks at a tree.’ Oh, that’s awesome, and he would go,” Mark said.

Kym said that one of her favorite memories was while Tyler was playing at WSU, particularly the triple-overtime win that saw the backup quarterback enter the game and play during the Cougs’ 21-point comeback.

After leading WSU to the win, Tyler sat atop a teammate’s shoulders with a wide smile Kym and Mark had seen so many times before from their son as fans rushed the field.

“I was actually at the game and he walked me back to my hotel afterward. I remember just putting our arms around each other and just walking up that hill and him not believing that triple-overtime win would happen but that was just Tyler — he was just so sweet and fun. He was one of those people that you just always wanted to be around,” Kym said.

The Pacific Northwest and Washington will always be a special place to them, as the people have always been kind to them, Kym and Mark said. The region and state are places where Hilinski’s Hope will always live.

“The people [in Washington] remember Tyler, they don’t forget him. They don’t forget our family. They still hold fundraisers and golf events and tournaments and more,” Kym said.

Looking to the future, the Foundation will expand its reach and research to ensure they are helping student-athletes across the country as best they can, Mark said.

“Over the next five years, we really hope to grow the research side of what Hilinski’s Hope does, meaning we’ve met with so many fantastic mental health practitioners and have seen how they take care of their student-athletes all across the country and we want to continue to work with them,” he said.

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About the Contributors
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.
OLIVER MCKENNA, Evergreen Web Editor, Photojournalist
Oliver is a senior Public Relations Major from Spokane, WA. He has worked previously as head and assistant photo editor. He currently works as the photo editor. Oliver can be contacted at (509) 847-5174 or by email at [email protected]

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  • SolnichkaSep 29, 2023 at 12:46 pm

    Thank you for writing this.