Around 100 Americans die from a drug overdose every day.  On April 29, 2014, at the age of 22, Dylan David Hunter was one of those souls. However, like each individual who dies of a drug overdose, he was much more than a statistic. He was a son, a brother, a friend, an artist and a member of a close knit, all-American family.
By his family’s account, Dylan had a great upbringing. He went to great schools and grew up in a family full of love with no shortage of potential. There was no family history of alcoholism or addiction and few warning signs his life would end tragically and so prematurely.
“Depression is invisible, OCD is invisible… so affected people [like Dylan] do all they can to hide it, even deny it…”
That is not to say Dylan did not suffer throughout his foreshortened life. His brother, Adrian, reports that Dylan suffered from “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), dyslexia, and anxiety that in turn translated into severe depression”. Adrian went on to describe how his brother’s mental illness was “…so difficult to comprehend since it [was] often invisible. Depression is invisible, OCD is invisible… so affected people [like Dylan] do all they can to hide it, even deny it… It affects so many people all over the world in so many ways. But [it is] so hard to understand, to measure, to see.... and, therefore, to fix… To dull [his] pain and frustration, Dylan used drugs”.
With his brother as the inspiration, and to bring awareness to all individuals suffering invisibly from mental illness around the world, Adrian decided to take action. This action took the form of training for and competing in an Ironman Race, which raised awareness and over about $17,000 for the Brain and Behavior Foundation.
|Brian (left) and Adrian (right) at the start of the race. Together they raised almost $17,000 for the Brain and Behavior Foundation.|
The Brain and Behavior Foundation awards grants to young, mid-career and senior scientists, who conduct innovative and ‘out of the box’ research to achieve breakthrough advancements and ultimately decode the complexity of mental illnesses. Adrian reports, “that is what appealed to me - their innovative, entrepreneurial approach to these issues… I value that a lot. Current methods and approaches are clearly not helping everyone, as my brother is a testament to that. So we need to think outside the box… In addition, they had great reviews and reputation. It felt right. And they delivered. They were supportive, responsive, and all their follow-ups to people who donated were great”.
Adrian was not alone. Beyond the donors, supporters and well-wishers, his close friend and high school and Santa Clara University classmate (Go Broncos!), Brian Litke, trained, raced and fundraised alongside him. Together, they started out with a $3,000 goal and they sent out a single email. They surpassed their goal within four hours and quickly realized that their message and Dylan’s story was resonating in ways they had not anticipated.
The $17,000 that Adrian and Brian raised came from all over the country and included a generous donation from salesforce.com of $2,500. They are also grateful to the owners of Tonic Bar in SF, who kindly let them rent out and guest bartend for an evening of fundraising. “We auctioned off a signed Giants baseball bat, Giants tickets, a case of wine and gift cards via a raffle.” Adrian was especially proud of the group effort, “my buddies guest bartended and I walked around [selling] tickets. We raised $700 from bar tips and $1000 in raffle tickets. It was an incredible fun night for a great cause, with a huge turn out”.