College Basketball

Purdue superfan Tyler Trent dies

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) – He’d been described as a determined, willful child who has always had trouble saying “no.” 

Tyler Trent, the Purdue University superfan who continued to attend sporting events and classes as he battled cancer, died Tuesday, according to a tweet from the Purdue Cancer Center. He was 20.

Using his Twitter handle, the tweet from the cancer center at 9:04 p.m. said, “It’s with the deepest sorrow that we have to say goodbye to @theTylerTrent. We have all become #TylerStrong. To his family, words can’t express how sorry we are that he has passed. His life May have been short, but his legacy with be forever.”

He received nationwide attention in his battle against cancer. Trent was first diagnosed with cancer when he was 15. He died while suffering from a rare bone cancer.

He was known for leading football fans in loud chants of “Cancer sucks.” 

In 2017, Trent camped with another student to get good seats to a Purdue-Michigan football game, just hours after chemotherapy.

In the 2018 football season, he motivated the Purdue team to upset the Ohio State Buckeyes on national television.

His popularity took his to a wide variety of sports events as news of his bravery inspired many. 

That popularity lead to the creation of a bobblehead earlier this year. It features Tyler in a black and gold Purdue blazer and a “Cancer Sucks” T-shirt, an image approved by Trent in “all capital letters.” The Bottlehead Hall of Fame and Museum has been donating $5 from each bobblehead sold to the V Foundation for Cancer Research and the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment, charities chosen by Trent himself.

More recently, “The Upset,” his autobiography was made available for preorder. A portion of the proceeds were to go toward Trent’s effort to raise $1 million for cancer research.

Trent earned an associate degree from Purdue in computer information technology.

EVENTS

Purdue University and a Carmel church have scheduled events to honor Trent’s life.

College Park Church, 2606 W. 96th St., will have a funeral service at 6 p.m. Tuesday. There will be no visitation prior to the funeral, but funeral guests will be welcomed to a reception following the service. A guest book also will be available in the church’s atrium. The funeral will be livestreamed.

Purdue University announced Wednesday that a candlelight memorial will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday outside Hovde Hall to honor Trent’s life, the lives of all people battling cancer and the researchers seeking a cure. The event had initially been scheduled for Tuesday night.

REACTION

  • Purdue President Mitch Daniels tweeted: “Heaven has another great Boilermaker tonight. Thank you, Tyler, for all you taught us and the inspiration you left us.”
  • The Indianapolis Colts tweeted: “We’ll forever be inspired by you, @theTylerTrent. Rest in Peace. #TylerStrong.”
  • The Indiana Hoosiers Twitter account: “An inspiration to us all. A life well-lived. #TylerStrong”
  • Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Twitter: “@theTyler Trent was among the biggest, strongest & wisest people you could ever meet. He reminded us what being good is all about. I’m convinced Tyler was touched by our Lord & guided home every step of the way. Janet & I send our love to the Trent family & remain here for them.”
  • Indiana University football coach Tom Allen: “On behalf of @IndianaFootball, our thoughts and prayers are with Tyler Trent’s family. Tyler showed all of us the true essence of courage and fight.”
  • Purdue men’s basketball coach Matt Painter: RIP @theTylerTrent. Your fight, determination and inspiration to so many will not be forgotten. Your impact will continue for many years.”
  • Riley Children’s Foundation tweeted: “Thank you so much for your drive, compassion, intelligence and your inspiring message. We are, and will forever be, #TylerStrong.”
  • College sports commentator Dick Vitale: “Yes Trent Tyler was such an inspiration/ he wanted so badly to help other young ppl / May he RIP U can join many by donating to the TRENT TYLER FUND as @TheVFoundation has a grant in his name.”
  • Former Indianapolis Colts player Pat McAfee: “Rest easy @theTylerTrent… You made the world a better place. You inspired millions. And we were all very lucky to be in your presence… Cheers to a life that made a real difference”
  • Purdue Alumni on Twitter: “Thank you, @theTylerTrent for touching our hearts for changing our lives for uniting our Purdue community. If you would like to help #HammerDownCancer, the @PUCancerCenter has set up the TylerTrent Cancer Research Endowment: http://www.giving.purdue.edu/tylerstrong.”
  • The Indiana Pacers: “We offer our sincere condolences to the family of @theTylerTrent. The courage in which he lived his life was an inspiration to all of us. His legacy will live on.”

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Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

  • FIND SUPPORT: Learn more about supporting law enforcement wellness on NAMI.org

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