Mark and Kym Hilinski, the parents of the late Tyler Hilinski, will meet and speak with the University of Hawaii football team on Monday afternoon in advance of College Football Mental Health Week, which runs from Oct. 1-8.
Tyler Hilinski was a successful college football quarterback for Washington State University before he took his own life on Jan. 18, 2018. He was 21.
All the latest sports news from Hawaii’s sports station
In 2018, Hilinski’s Hope was founded by Mark and Kym Hilinski, as well as Tyler’s brothers Kelly and Ryan. The organization aims to promote the mental well-being of student-athletes. Hilinski’s Hope’s website describes the organization as one that strives to “educate, advocate, and eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness, while funding programs that provide student-athletes with the tools and resources that support their mental health and wellness.”
Over 115 college football teams will participate in Mental Health Week in 2022, including the University of Hawaii, who will sport green ribbon helmet decals that both promote mental health and honor Tyler Hilinski’s memory in its Oct. 8 matchup at San Diego State.
Kelly Hilinski is a former college quarterback at Colombia and Weber State, while Ryan Hilinski is currently the starting quarterback at Northwestern.
Since the inception of Hilinski’s Hope, Mark and Kym have traveled the country to meet and speak with college teams. Monday will be their first time officially engaging with the University of Hawaii. The Hilinski family travels frequently to Hawaii, Kauai in particular, where Tyler’s ashes are scattered.
Mark and Kym noted how important Monday’s visit, which they also call ‘Tyler Talks,’ is in the wake of former Hawaii linebacker Scheyenne Sanitoa dying by suicide in 2019, as well as the late Colt Brennan, who struggled with addiction in his latter years.
“We’ve done over 150 Tyler Talks and today we’re honored, and it’s such a privilege to talk to and speak to the University of Hawaii because the islands are very special to us and our family,” Kym Hilinski told KHON2 on Monday. “Part of Tyler is still here. It’s gonna be an emotional talk but we’re very grateful to meet the amazing athletes at UH.
“I want the islands to know how wonderful and how special they are. They’re in our hearts. … Everybody here is special to us and we’re thankful to be welcomed.”
In a state senate hearing in January, multiple parents of former UH players noted that mental health resources were scant during the COVID-19 pandemic. New Hawaii coach Timmy Chang has aimed to change that, with Monday serving as another step towards accommodating the needs of his players as it relates to mental health. The Rainbow Warriors have a bye this week but are still meeting as a team. Monday’s meeting with Hilinski’s Hope will last for about an hour.
“They’re so emotional, you can’t really practice them,” Mark Hilinski said of the Tyler Talks. “The universal message and one we want to bring here and talk about with the kids today is there is no problem big enough at 21 years old that we can’t help solve. Suicide is not the answer. … If you’re suffering from an illness you don’t understand, you have to get help. It’s a raw experience for the coaches, for the kids and for Kym and I.
“We’re good in this country at treating depression and anxiety, we just need to get them out of the cycle where it goes downhill. We’re so excited to meet coach Chang. Obviously, he’s lived some of the biggest highs in college football and has also seen struggles, so what a tremendous honor.
“You gotta lean on your teammates, that’s where leadership comes. … We’re excited to reinforce that message. This is a message of hope. We know there’s another Tyler out there, we just want to make sure that person gets the help that they need.”