In nearly a year since their son’s suicide, a Redmond couple have helped raise thousands to help other students. But it’s a four-and-a-half minute video that might be making the biggest difference.
The video, called “Your Life Matters,” received 2.5 million views on Facebook in its first two weeks, according to the social media site. Travis and Erika Holmes started working on the video after being overwhelmed with the response for a memorial fund to their son, Hunter, a Redmond High athlete who took his own life Dec. 14, 2017.
“It started with people donating the money,” Travis said. “We were sort of looking for some sort of project that would impact our own kids at the high school.”
Instead of giving the video a straight suicide prevention message, it shows how everyone is dealing with challenges. It begins with a student being bullied as he enters Redmond High. Above the bullied student, the message “Doesn’t feel safe at school... or at home” appears.
As the bullies walk away messages appear above them, reading “Watched his dad get arrested last month” and “Doesn’t like bullying, goes along with it anyway.”
Other students and teachers are shown to be dealing with eating disorders, depression, cancer in the family and being called a “slut” or “redneck.”
Putting the video together
Cari Wood, Redmond’s longtime athletic trainer, said the Holmeses approached her about using money they’d raised to go toward training equipment. After she was unable to think of something, Wood came up with the video idea based on a video used in a health occupations class she teaches.
“I was just showing that to my kids and a light bulb came on,” Wood recalled.
She decided to make a video based on the issues teenagers face.
The Holmeses and Wood worked with The NW Collective video production company of Bend. They met with students to find issues they are dealing with. Though the kids acting in the video aren’t necessarily the ones dealing with a problem, the issues were all raised in discussions.
“Current things going on at the high school that people are unaware of,” Travis said. “Including things that our son may have gone through that we were unaware of, and still are unaware of some of it.”
The message of the video, which took about four months to complete, is to help people recognize that everyone is going through problems, Travis said.
“It’s not necessarily about suicide awareness as much as it’s, ‘Let’s start being kind and pay attention to each other,’ ” he said.
The video also looks to show students it’s OK to get help, said Wood, who worked with Hunter when he played golf and soccer.
“It’s OK to not be OK,” she said. “You don’t have to act happy all the time.”
The video’s reach has stunned the family. Along with millions of views, it has been “liked” 14,000 times on Facebook and shared 57,000 times.
“We’ve had people from all over the country reach out and send us special messages or tell us how much it helped,” Erika said.
Some are looking to use the video as a tool to help with students in other communities, Travis said.
“We find ourselves in unfamiliar territory for a video that started as a tool for our own kids, has spread itself across the nation,” he said.
Wood said she was blown away by the popularity of the video. She posted it to her Facebook page shortly after it was posted to the Hunter Holmes Memorial Fund page and has read all the more than 1,200 comments and seen all the shares.
“What started as a project of ‘let’s try to help our kids in Redmond and in small communities’ has turned into a complete surprise,” she said. “We’ve heard from people all over the country.”
“Your Life Matters” has also been posted to Youtube and Vimeo because some schools don’t allow Facebook access on school computers, Wood said. It has more than 5,000 views on each platform.
The family has been touched by how many people have reached out.
“If we only help one person, it would be a huge mission accomplished,” Erika said.
Compassion and kindness
The Holmeses started the Hunter Holmes Memorial Fund at Selco Credit Union shortly after his death.
“We were flooded with donations, we immediately had to try to do something positive,” Travis said.
That led to them creating a scholarship for high school students. Travis said they made a point of making the scholarship non-scholastic.
“It has everything to do with your character, as to whether you get the scholarship,” he said. “Hunter was never a great student, but he was popular throughout the school because of his compassion and kindness for others.”
They could see the impact Hunter had on other students by the way his classmates responded after his death. Some spoke lovingly of Hunter at his memorial service, while others came by the Holmes home to express what he meant.
Even while being interviewed at Starbucks, two former Redmond High students stopped to give a hug to Hunter’s parents. They say that happens regularly.
They held a golf tournament in Hunter’s honor last May, raising more than $10,000, with 160 golfers participating and 215 people attending a dinner. The second Hunter Holmes Memorial Golf Tournament is scheduled for May 18, 2019, at Meadow Lakes Golf Course in Prineville.
In total, the Holmeses say they’ve raised between $15,000-20,000.
They plan to use money from next year’s tournament on a second project, which they are keeping close to the vest for now.
“Seeing the impact of the video, it sort of gives us insight,” Travis said. “We’ve learned a lot from the process. We think we might be able to do something even better.”
A way of healing
Toward the end, “Your Life Matters” gets personal. A soccer goalie, Hunter’s position, makes a save but then has a pained look as he touches his forehead. “Things haven’t been the same since the last concussion,” a reference to a concussion Hunter suffered shortly before his death, appears on screen.
The player, now wearing Hunter’s letter jacket, is congratulated by Wood after the game. Wood asks if he’s OK, and Hunter tells her he is.
“It’s OK not to be OK,” then flashes across the screen.
“It’s for him,” Travis said of Hunter. “It’s almost a way of healing. This (video) obviously wouldn’t have happened without him. We were just trying to, maybe, see what he saw in a day. We weren’t going to not mention him.”
— Reporter: 541-548-2186, firstname.lastname@example.org