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South Valley Journal

Hope Squad members keep their eyes on the prize

Apr 03, 2022 05:13PM ● By Jet Burnham

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

The chance to win fabulous prizes was incentive for students and staff to participate in suicide prevention activities, part of South Hills Middle School’s Hope Week, held the first week of March.

SHMS counselor Kathy Campbell was impressed with the prizes, which were donated by local business owners.

“Usually we're lucky to get a free hamburger,” Campbell said.

This year, prizes included a $25 gift certificate from Chubby’s Cafe, ice cream treats from Iceberg Drive Inn, equipment and clothing from Legends Boxing, Amazon gift cards donated by Champion Heating and Air, games and toys from GameStop and The Red Balloon Toy Store, and passes to A Beautiful SurpriZe Pilates Studio, Labyrinth Reality Games and Airborne Trampoline Park.

Campbell said members of Hope Squad went out on their own to ask for the donations.

Ninth-grader Katelynn Goldhardt, who works part-time at Chubby’s Cafe, said it was intimidating to ask her boss, but she wasn’t surprised when he donated gift certificates and T-shirts. Other businesses were equally generous.

“I just thought it was really cool that they're willing to donate all these things, just out of the blue,” she said.

Seventh-grader Nolan Astin began by asking at GameStop and The Red Balloon Toy Store, where he said the employees have always been friendly and kind. When they happily donated games, toys and puzzles, he gained confidence to contact other businesses.

Red Balloon manager Kathy Deimler, who regularly donates to good causes, said she was particularly impressed by Nolan and his presentation.

“A very young kid taking the initiative to do that, and to come out of his shell, and speak to an adult and ask for a donation, takes a lot of courage,” she said. “I just felt a need to support it.”

Seventh-grader Ivorie Baldwin practiced with her mom before contacting businesses.

“By the end, I had called so many places and went and talked to so many places that it just got really comfortable for me,” she said.

Because there were high-value and popular prizes to win, there was more participation than usual in the Hope Week activities.

“I do think it did have a lot of effect on the kids to want to participate in the lunch activities,” Hope Squad member Gracie Edmunds said.

In Hope Squad, students learn the warning signs of suicide and how to get help for those who are struggling. Campbell is impressed with this year’s members.

“In all the years I've done this, this is probably our strongest group—they really do care,” Campbell said. “This is the first time that I've actually seen kids in the Hope Squad go out and take this information and share it with their community.”

Ivorie has been excited to share what she’s learned about suicide prevention with others, such as the girls in her church youth group.

“I really have been inspired by Hope Squad to help out and go into the community,” she said. “I really think that if we all work together, we can help prevent suicide and put a stop to it.”

Katelynn was inspired to place SafeUt app stickers around her neighborhood when the Hope Squad had some left-over after posting them around the school to encourage all students and their parents to have the app on their phones.

The SafeUT app is a crisis chat and tip line that provides real-time crisis intervention for suicide, emotional crises, bullying, relationship struggles, mental health challenges and threats of violence.

Hope Squad is part of the school’s Tiger Squad, which focuses on helping others and encouraging kindness.

Students said their involvement in the club has been life-changing.

“This is my first year in Tiger Squad but I've seen a difference in me,” Gracie said. “I've been wanting to help more people, and not just be in my own world. I've been noticing more people and seeing if people need help.”

Ivorie said she’s become more comfortable talking about suicide and now has the tools to recognize and help friends who are struggling.

“I've actually really started talking to people I know, just randomly calling them or sending them a text to check to make sure they're okay,” Ivorie said.

“I've been able to reflect back on what we've learned to help myself and to help others who’ve been struggling,” Katelynn said.

Nolan loves that Tiger Squad provides the opportunity to be a part of finding solutions to problems such as suicide.

“We're trying to stop something that isn't just a problem here in Utah but it's a problem all over the USA and world-wide,” Nolan said.