In 2010, Save a Tear Project creator and founder Scott Hampel, had been in a car accident that took him through a dark period in his life. After a couple of crucial conversations, a new hope and vision for himself ignited, and one he eventually wanted to share with others.
Approximately seven years after his accident, things got worse. “It felt like my brain was being crushed, explained Hampel.”
He started seeking answers through several doctors and various tests. Different symptoms seem to point toward traumatic brain injury (TBI), in which he was eventually diagnosed with.
As time went on, other than for an occasional cup of coffee, and the responsibility of picking up his grand-kids, Hampel spent the majority of his time in pain and in bed. “There was a point when I was lying in bed and I said, hey if I don’t wake up, I’m good to go, said Hampel. “If I die in my sleep, then I’m good.”
After a while, Hampel realized, “Nobody should feel like that, but I did. I was in that much pain, that I said let’s go.”
Shortly after, Hampel's sister who worked for a mental health provider, reached out to her brother about his well-being and told him about the semicolon project. The Semicolon project is an organization that addresses depression and suicide. As the Project Semicolon website states: “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” Hampel's sister encouraged him to do something similar.
This conversation inspired him to reach out to others. “I figured hey, if there’s other people who feel as bad as me, if there’s something I can do to help them, this is it,” said Hampel. “When somebody commits suicide, how many tears are shed? All I’m trying to do is save a few tears.”
His Save a Tear Project was born.
Through his project, based out of Vancouver, WA, he would begin making and donating laser cut bamboo necklaces, dog tags, bracelets, and key chains. Each item has a semicolon image or a message of hope and reminder on one side, and a toll-free suicide prevention number listed on the other.
Business cards with names can get lost. Hampel’s items are something tangible people can have at all times. “You can hold it; draw whatever you need to get from it. It means that somebody cares about you because they got it to you. I care about you because I’ve made it with my own hands,” exclaimed Hampel.
“They ‘re touching it. They can look at it. It’s a reminder day after day that you’re important, that you’re loved, and people care about you. We’re here and you’re not alone.”
Hampel’s hope is that these items will help get people to start talking. “It’s all about having conversations. If you see someone sitting alone, or was bullied, you can reach out. Try to include people and let them know I’m here for you. You can talk to me anytime,” expressed Hampel. “Student to student, mom to dad, counselors or teachers because sometimes, silence is the killer.”
Hampel gradually started his project and then picked it up further with the help of his three grand-kids. They make the items out of Hampel’s house. After designing an item, it’s sent to a laser cutter. Once returned, they finish assembling, sanding, clear coating, and tying all the bracelets.
“There’s a lot of work to it, but it’s all worth it. This really got me through a real dark time. This kind of helped me focus in on one thing to work on and would take the pain away for a little bit. This probably kept me alive,” stated Hampel.
Involving his grand-kids gives him an opportunity to keep open communication with them. They have conversations about how they are doing in school, if they are getting bullied or if anybody is bothering them. He plans to continue that open relationship with them through high school and into their adult years.
He hopes to set an example when they are young, “so in their life they’ll go out and do good things, better things, and they’ll help people,” said Hampel. He reports his grand-kids already have a sense of community and help everybody in the neighborhood.
Right now, since its only him and his grand-kids, they make the items mostly for specific causes. Hampel says the hardest part is to try and raise money. His goal is to become a non-profit organization with corporate sponsorships so he can expand nationwide to every school, college, and university “with thousands of items always ready to go”.
A lot of the items he made in the past were paid out of his own pocket, but he has been able to sell items at expos and received smaller sponsorships and donations.
Currently he plans on donating items to the Fort Vancouver High School. A couple he recently met at a tabling sponsored 100 items for the school. Hampel worked with getting items to veteran groups. He donated 200 pieces to the Clark County Veterans Assistance Center and 100 pieces to Backpack for Life based in New Jersey, a veteran outreach program that fills backpacks with toiletries, supplies, and resources for supportive services. BFL clipped Hampel’s donated key-chains on to the backpacks. Hampel will also be working with a veteran motorcycle group this month.
Other groups he’s donated to: First Responders, the Girl Scouts, and the LGBTQ community.
Hampel has been operating the Save a Tear Project intermittently for about a year, but has “really been hitting it hard” in the last four months. Although he’s always donated and helped out various charities, Hampel states besides changing his diet and having work done on his neck, he attributes his new mission as a big part of his improved health. He also says, “In my opinion, one day I was sitting on my porch and asked God to take away the pain. A couple days later, I felt better. Maybe I went through all that agony to come out the other side to do something good for our community.”
It’s been the longest he felt good in 2 ½ years. He says he is thankful every day. He credits his family for their help and support in order to carry out his mission of promoting crucial life-saving conversations.
Hampel is also an artist. His paintings and recreations from reclaimed or recycled wood tables are what he calls post apocalyptic modern tables and paintings. Some of the profits from his artwork go toward his cause.
To learn more about the Save a Tear Project and his art work, you can follow his Save a Tear Project Facebook page.
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The views and opinions expressed are those of the interviewees, event speakers and guest posts, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Thuy Smith Outreach.
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