TOOELE, Utah (ABC4) – Drayke Hardman’s death has impacted folks around the state and even across the globe.
When news of the 12-year-old’s passing broke — and the reason for his suicide was revealed as bullying-related — many spoke out to share their agony and anger that another Utah child had taken their life not long after the death of Izzy Tichenor similarly rocked the community.
20-year-old Candace Holdaway from Payson was affected as well. She recalls scrolling through social media when she came across a post that Hardman’s mother had made, which had quickly gone viral.
It was a collection of photos from the hospital where Drakye was surrounded by his parents and sisters, barely clinging to life before finally succumbing to his self-inflicted injury. The images, which are objectively hard to look at, were overwhelming for Holdaway.
Tears came, quickly and powerfully.
“I immediately started crying at the dinner table,” Holdaway remembers to ABC4.com. “And I walked out.”
She couldn’t help but feel for the Hardman family, whom she had never met. She also felt a sense of kinship with Drayke, remembering when she had been bullied in school as a child.
“It takes a toll on you and your mental health and everything,” Holdaway explains of her experiences with bullies. “And it just ended up causing a lot of depression, eating disorders, and stuff for me. So knowing what it’s like to get bullied and seeing a little kid take his life from it, it’s hard.”
She felt compelled to do something to show support, not only for the Hardmans but for all who feel depressed and lonely as a result of bullying. She hit up the members of her group chat, a group of truck-loving millennials, known as Homegrown Built, to see if they wanted to do something for Drayke.
The response was a unanimous yes.
There are several truck groups throughout the state. Homegrown Built considers itself to be the new kids on the block. They don’t all have the same lifts and eye-catching features as members of some of the bigger groups, but Holdaway says they’ll get there one day.
“Gotta start somewhere,” she says of the group of 30 to 40 mostly millennial-aged members.
While they do sometimes meet up just to hang out, the members of Homegrown Built also join together to make a supportive presence in their community. Recently, they rallied to support the family of Sgt. Taylor Hoover, the Utah-born and raised Marine who was killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan in August. Driving to Hoover’s home with their trucks decorated in honor of the fallen Marine, Homegrown Built raised clothing and other donations in his honor.
Drayke Hardman was a perfect choice for the group’s next act of remembrance and reflection.
“We’re going to get purple ribbons and balloons since purple was his favorite color. Some of us are going to get turquoise for suicide awareness. But we’re going to add ribbons and balloons to our trucks and everything,” Holdaway says of the group’s preparation to drive through Hardman’s neighborhood in Tooele en route to join with other truck groups in town. “We’re just trying to make sure everything’s revolved around Drayke.”
Homegrown Built is planning to meet with other groups for a large showing of support for the Hardman family. They don’t want to reveal exactly what their plans are, but Holdaway and her friends have a few thoughtful surprises in store for the grieving family.
Ultimately, they hope that their actions and Drayke’s legacy can influence change in the community. They also hope to let others who may be fighting an invisible battle that they aren’t alone.
“I just hope that people realize that you are loved,” Holdaway says. “You don’t need to change and you don’t need to leave. Like yes, this world is cruel, but I just hope that people will realize that there are people that are going to be there for you, no matter how dark the world can get.”