It's Jill from the Gordie Center. You receive this e-newsletter from me (and the Gordie Center director, Susie Bruce) every month. You may have gotten a hand-written thank you card from me when you donated to the Gordie Center--or even a phone call or voicemail full of gratitude from me. If you've ordered a product from the Gordie Center, like
GORDIEcheck BAC cards
, I've likely been the person filling the envelope or box with your products. I really enjoy getting to know you, and all the reasons why you support the Gordie Center. At each of these touchpoints, you've been seeing my heart for the work we do at the Gordie Center. The rest of the Gordie Center staff and I are truly passionate about our mission to end hazing and substance misuse. We are dedicated to our work. We bring it home...we talk about it with our spouses, our kids, our parents, our neighbors...we text each other outside of work hours to discuss it...we constantly strive to do more.
I read about hazing and alcohol overdose deaths every single day, and sometimes that wears me down. It's disheartening to know that despite our very best efforts, students are still hazing each other, being hazed, carrying a lifetime of physical and emotional scars, and dying. I recently
read about another hazing death
--not one that occurred this week, or even this year...one that occurred in November of 2018. Collin Wiant at Ohio University. I've read about his death many times since November, but this particular article got to me. Maybe it's because I used to live in Ohio, near where Collin's family lives--and it's not unlike where you live, because
hazing doesn't discriminate
. Maybe it's because I'm a mom, and I paused after the first few lines of the article to try to wrap my brain around what Collin's mom must have felt as she walked up the stairs to wake her husband, at the request of the police officers and chaplain at her door...knowing that something unimaginable had happened to one of her kids, but unsure which one because the officer wouldn't tell her until her husband was present. How did she even make it up those stairs? Would I have been able to? Maybe it's because I've been working over the last few months on our annual print publication, which will focus on the 15th anniversary of Gordie's death in September, and I'm feeling especially sensitive as I dive deep into the impact that a senseless death like Gordie's, like Collin's, like so many others, has on families, friends, and communities indefinitely. Likely, the way I reacted to this article is a combination of all those factors.
Instead of feeling worn down when I read it, I felt compelled to depart from our normal newsletter and write this. I want no other family to experience what Gordie and Collin's families have experienced. A common refrain of the parents who have lost a child to hazing is, "I didn't know what was being asked of them," and that's something we at the Gordie Center are desperate to change. Spend time this summer talking to your kids and the students in your life about hazing and alcohol overdose. Tell them that you will support them if they want to walk away or report hazing. Tell them that joining any group is not worth risking their lives, or the lives of those around them. It's never too early for these conversations--
47% of college students report having been hazed in high school
. It may seem harmless, but it's not--and it primes our kids to accept potentially more dangerous forms of hazing in college. My kids are not immune, and neither are yours. As you plan for a summer filled with fun family memories, also plan to incorporate these conversations--#rememberGordie and Collin.