Kai Crume was 12 when his basketball coach died by suicide.
After sinking into a months-long depression, Kai finally found a way out while participating in the annual Modoc Ancestral Run, a 150-mile relay from Fort Klamath to the Lava Beds.
“It changed me,” he says. “Now I have confidence and perspective. I see things differently.”
The 15-year-old Henley High School sophomore used his experiences to create an award-winning suicide awareness video for the You Matter to Klamath 2021 Youth Suicide Prevention Video competition. He won first place in the contest for his 2-minute video “We Have Purpose,” which uses imagery from the Modoc Ancestral relay, native songs sung in the Klamath language, and a strong message about hope and connection.
“The message is for anyone who’s feeling down,” Kai says. “I want you to know you have meaning, that you were put on earth for a reason. … so don’t ever feel you don’t have anything, don’t ever feel like you’re alone.”
View Kai’s first-place video here: We Have Purpose.
Kai joins three other teenagers who won awards for their videos. Dallin Peterson of Ponderosa Junior High School won second-place for Your Light is Needed. Ashley DeGroot of Klamath Union High School won third place for Two Moons, and Bailyn Amos of Klamath Union won fourth-place for Warning Signs.
You Matter to Klamath is a multi-agency collaboration dedicated to eliminating suicide in Klamath County. The You Matter to Klamath Youth Suicide Prevention Contest launched in 2019. Cash prizes in 2021 were sponsored by Citizens for Safe Schools and the local chapter of Alky Angels.
Kai shot and edited the video on his phone, choosing to enter the contest at the urging of his aunt, Chloe Say, a Klamath Tribal member. The piece uses both English and Klamath languages, and Kai uses subtitles to translate the Klamath language into English for viewers. Kai and his mother, Lupe, are members of the Pit River Tribe. His father, Dion, is a member of The Klamath Tribes.
As a longtime distance runner, Kai used running as a visual and a pathway to get his message across. “Running has made me who I am,” he explains. “It makes me feel good inside and out.”
The teen called suicide an issue for youth that is compounded by bullying and social pressures.
“It’s a pretty big thing,” he says. “Some people get bullied and they take that inside themselves and it makes them feel bad. It’s easy to just give up.
“When I felt sad, I didn’t feel like I had anybody so now when someone I know is down or depressed, I want to be the person that I never thought I had.”
Many of his friends tell him he should be a therapist, but his dream job is to be lineman for a power company. His plan is to go to college in Washington state, get a job as a lineman, buy property, and eventually build his dream home.
As the first-place winner of the video contest, Kai earned $500 in cash and gift card. The cash will be used to help fund a trip to Atlanta, Ga., in April to attend a national leadership conference as a member of Henley’s DECA team. He also participates in track and basketball at Henley.
He is proud that his video was able to bring more awareness to suicide prevention. As he continues his journey, he plans to live by his favorite saying: “When life knocks you down, just keep pushing through whatever you have to to get to the next step.”
Please note: If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. Please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255 or text HELLO to 741741.