Next month will mark 8 years since Speak Your Silence was started.
I “launched” it (whatever that means) less than a month after getting married, and I had no idea what the heck I was doing. All I knew was that I wanted SYS to be an organization that would help people move from their past, of being sexually abused, to their future, thriving and kicking butt in life.
2 or 3 years ago, we broadened the scope of our mission to include sexual assault, because the need simply kept knocking on our door.
When we first started, we really had nothing going in our favor, other than one really fantastic thing: We had already somehow convinced an amazing company called BPA Health to partner with us, making it possible to offer in-person, one-on-one counseling (the very thing that made such an enormous impact in my own life) to any person who came to us for help, no matter where they lived within the US or what they could afford.
That was huge. And it still is. 🙂
We had no funding, our community of supporters and followers was tiny, and we had no clear direction of where we were headed.
Right about that time, my wife, Ashley, learned some awful news – her friend from college, Cody Brinkerhoff, had passed away. She learned the news on Facebook and was strongly compelled to find out what had happened. She read through every post and comment she could find and kept digging. Finally, she discovered a comment his mom, Amy, had made explaining that Cody was sexually abused when he was a little kid, had dealt with a number of struggles ever since as a result, and had taken his own life.
It was such sad news to process and it suddenly all made sense to Ashley why she felt so compelled to keep digging.
Ashley only knew Cody from class, so she didn’t know his family. But, Cody’s story weighed very heavily on her heart and she knew she was meant to find that back story and that she needed to reach out to his mom to offer encouragement. So, she sent Amy a message to tell her how sorry she was for their loss and how kind Cody had always been to her. She also wanted Amy to know that there were people hard at work to make it possible for people like Cody to find the help and healing that they so deserve.
I remember Ash telling me about their dialogue, and it was such a vivid confirmation of the importance and gravity of SYS’ mission.
I’m not certain the timeline, but sometime in the weeks or months that followed, out of the blue, we suddenly began receiving donations from people we’d never met before.
It began with a totally unexpected and very generous gift from Amy and her husband, RV. We were just blown away by their generosity – especially given the timing. The last thing I would expect would be for hurting parents to be thinking about helping us.
Quite the testament to the kind of people that Amy and RV are.
Shortly thereafter, one at a time and then in a seemingly endless wave, we began receiving donations – from people all across the country – given in honor and memory of Cody Brinkerhoff.
We were absolutely blown away. There’s no other way to put it. The Brinkerhoffs live in Texas and we’d never even met them in person… and suddenly they’re just pouring out blessing upon blessing to help this tiny little organization-that-could in Idaho get off the ground.
And, to be honest, to receive donations as a result of such a devastating personal loss to this family… well, it came with quite the feeling of responsibility. I knew that this funding needed to be honored and used wisely and increased to truly honor Cody’s memory and to really make it count.
Over the course of that year and then the years that followed, the Brinkerhoffs gave and raised an incredible amount of funding for us. They just heaped enormous blessings on SYS. I’ve always thought of them as SYS’ “angel investors” – that’s exactly what they were to us.
And I’ll forever be grateful for and honored by their generosity.
A year or two after first getting to know Amy and RV, we were just about to launch a donor group called “The Loudspeaker”, which would provide SYS with a base of dependable monthly funding to ensure that we could operate and avoid getting trapped in the brutal fundraising cycle that is so easy for nonprofits to find themselves in. Right about this time, we received a large check from the Brinkerhoffs, informing us that they had sold some of Cody’s foundation drill rig equipment and were donating the proceeds to SYS.
Given the history of their support and the role that they and Cody played from the very, very beginning of SYS, we thought it was only appropriate at that time to announce that Cody would forever be recognized as the Honorary First Founding Member of The Loudspeaker. 🙂
Since first meeting them, Amy and RV have had me speak at industry events, they’ve hosted Cinco de Mayo wiffle ball golf tournament fundraisers at their house in Texas (which were really fun, ridiculous, and hilarious, by the way – the Brinkerhoffs know how to go all out and throw a fun party! If you’re ever invited, be sure to go!), they’ve been to Boise to visit us, RV served on SYS’ board for a handful of years, and they’re just a huge part of the DNA of SYS. They’ve been incredible supporters, but they’ve also become dear, dear friends.
So, as we recently marked the 8 year anniversary of Cody’s passing and as we approach the 8 year anniversary of SYS’ founding, I just feel like it’s time to recognize Cody and the long-lasting and deep impact his life and story has had – and will continue to have – on the lives of so many people. SYS is still a “small” organization, but our community is extremely loyal to our cause and I’m always amazed by how meaningful and personal our mission is to so many people.
We wouldn’t have made it far at all without Cody and without his amazing parents, Amy and RV. So, to them, I simply say thank you and I love you guys. (Ash loves you too, but I love you more. I called dibs.) 🙂
As we bring The Loudspeaker back to the forefront at SYS this fall, we continue to recognize Cody as its first founding member and we’ll continue to do everything we can to honor his life by helping as many people as we possibly can to move forward to live the great lives they’re meant to live.
Here’s to Cody Brinkerhoff. 🙂
If you would like to learn more about The Loudspeaker, click here.