A year ago, Tyler Hilinski committed suicide. A few hours after he fatally shot himself in the head, his name appeared on every headline, #riptylerhilinski was trending on twitter, and students at Washington State University began planning a candlelight vigil. Tyler wasn’t the first person to commit suicide and he unfortunately wasn’t the last but he was a son, a brother, a friend, a student, and an athlete. Doctors later found that he was suffering from CTE and that his brain was in the condition of a 60-year-old, most likely due to forced impact playing football.
Across the country, five years ago, Madison Holleran jumped from the top of a parking structure to her death. She was too a daughter, sister, friend, student, and athlete suffering from chronic depression. Her friends and family believe she took a running leap over the side of the building in Philadelphia, as she had done before, yet over a hurdle, for track and field.
Their stories have been told countless times. But the end never changes. You want it to change so badly but it doesn’t.
That’s why I’m going to tell someone else’s story. Not because theirs isn’t deserving but because everyone needs to know that there can be a different ending.
Roles: solo production for final honors thesis project
Ability to Dance
In this day and age, almost everyone is searching for a healthy balance between embracing our differences and understanding our similarities.
Sydney Mesher, 21-year-old Portland native, may have a recipe.
In the film, Sydney’s parents remind us of her undeniable talent and encourage everyone to recognize the time and effort she dedicates to her craft. But Sydney has accepted fully-heartedly that the absence of her left hand will attract attention and could have a huge impact on the dance industry if she becomes the first differently abled Radio City Rockette.
In just ten weeks (while continuing other education and working part-time jobs), four students at the University of Oregon, School of Journalism and Communication produced this short documentary. We called ourselves, Solace Production.
I originally met Sydney freshman year of college through a group of friends and instantly knew she was special. Two years later, after following her journey on social media, I asked to share her story. Shortly after our documentary was released, Sydney was recognized by Health Magazine. She deserves to be recognized on a national level.
During Spring Quarter of 2018, I traveled to New York City to meet Sydney at Pace University, but a few weeks later she returned to Portland for a brief Summer Vacation (just one week before heading to Los Angeles to continue to train). Solace took advantage of limited time we had and traveled up I-5 to meet the Meshers.
I am now working with a talented musician and friend at the University of Los Angeles to produce original music for the film and update Sydney’s story.
“It’s been gangbusters at Seattle’s Byrnie Utz Hats since owner Paul Ferry announced the venerable shop would close next month.
‘It’s a landmark,’ says customer James Johnson, who first bought a hat here in 1976. ‘It’s part of the culture and glue of the city.’
Ferry, the owner, saved the store from closing once before when the Utz family hung up their hats in 1990. But now the 84-year-old business is apparently another casualty of Seattle’s downtown real estate boom. A New York-based real estate company that bought the building in January refused to renew the lease.
‘To me, it was very personal; But to them, it was business,’ Ferry explains about the Union Street store.
Coming soon, Byrnie Utz will be forced to clear its original tiger oak shelves and cabinets of thousands of hats — unless the recent waves of customers do so first. It’s been a West Coast destination for generations, known for its large variety of wares, from the finest Panama grades (costing more than $1,000) to functional headgear to fend off Northwest rain.
There are stacks of sporty English trilbies, Stetsons and urban Kangols, and rows of sleek fedoras and Homburgs. Utz was a men’s hat shop for decades until Ferry added women’s lines 10 years ago.
It’s the end of an era while, ironically, hats are enjoying a revival — especially with men. One day after the store announced it would be closing, Ferry received a consolation call from Henry the Hatter in Detroit.
‘There are so few of us left that we are not competitors. We’re the sole survivors,’ Ferry says.
Byrnie Utz takes prides in old-fashioned service, according to salesperson Stacy Oaks.
‘To be able to try on a hat you like and have somebody help you who knows what they’re doing... we’re getting closer and closer to a lost art.’
Recently, Nam Leduc stopped by with his parents who were visiting from California. ‘My father knew about this store before he ever set foot in it. I’ve never seen anything like it,’ he said.
Caleb Law, a Texas native who came to the area in the mid-‘90s, commutes from his ranch near Arlington to the shop every few months to get his Stetsons worked on.
‘I may never get my hats shaped again because I can’t let anyone else touch them,’ Law says.
Ferry plans to retire, but he, his employees and his loyal customers have hopes that an enterprising person will buy any remaining inventory and, ideally, reopen something and continue Seattle’s hat legacy.”