Hi all! I want to give a big thank you to Emily Dayton for agreeing to do an interview with me. Emily began a suicide prevention movement, though they are not only a suicide prevention group, with her parents known as You Can NOT Be Replaced. At first, they ordered just 500 wristbands, but at their one year mark, they had over 14,000 wristbands circulating across the country. They run a very inspirational movement, speak at school assemblies, and do so much more. Talk about inspirational! Although September is suicide prevention month, I think that suicide prevention and Emily’s movement are important things to promote at any time of the year because you truly cannot be replaced. Please check out my interview with Emily below:
1. Can you tell me a little bit about the movement that you and your parents started and why?
The movement that my parents and I started is called You Can NOT Be Replaced. It focuses on the growth and strength of youth and families by promoting the irreplaceable value of each individual. We started YCNBR after the seventh suicide that had happened in our community. Yes, YCNBR started as a response to the suicides, but we are not only a suicide prevention group. We like to think of ourselves as ‘up-stream’ prevention through understanding your worth and value as a person to make good choices. Our goal is to be able to reach someone before they take the path that leads to crisis. If we can affect at least one person where ever we go, whether its an event or a school assembly that’s all we need and that’s why we were supposed to go.
2. How did you come up with the name You Can NOT Be Replaced?
We came up with name You Can NOT Be Replaced, the weekend after the seventh suicide. My parents and I were sitting at the dining room table talking about tragedy like we always did with each of the ones before. I shared with them that I had this feeling like I was supposed to do something about it, but not knowing what. Each person is so unique, their personality, talents, gifts, and when they’re gone, its forever. So I said out loud to them “Don’t they realize they can’t be replaced?” It automatically struck me. ‘Why didn’t the boys who did commit suicide not know that?’ We decided to buy 500 wristbands to pass out to local kids. I have my graphic design certificate from high school, so I got busy on an instruction card because I knew I wanted the wristbands to be passed. For weeks following I was bouncing off ideas from me to my parents and vice versa. We came up with, little did we know, our non-profit You Can NOT Be Replaced. Donations started coming in right away and we put up the website, Facebook, and twitter sites. Its grown from there. At one year we had 14,000 across the country.
3. Can you tell me a little bit about how starting this movement has changed you?
This organization has changed me in every way. Going through twelve suicides (the cluster was bigger than the students at my school) in the past five years and having so many questions that couldn’t possibly be answered was extremely frustrating for me. But I took those experiences , took a step back and thought about what I was doing in my life. My decisions would not only affect me but the people around me, in the present but also in the future, so my choices and who I spent time with was important. This organization has changed my thought process about those actions and has made me want to try and make a difference each day, whether big or small.
4. What have you learned from this inspirational project you began?
I don’t know where to begin! I think I can speak for both my parents and I that we have learned an incredible amount of information and are continuing to learn new things every day. The information that my mom and I have found on just the developing brain and the effects of substance use, exercise and food alone is fascinating. We are always striving to learn more. But I have also learned that five simple words (You Can NOT Be Replaced) can be extremely powerful, I would have never thought that initially. We get emails expressing how grateful people are that someone passed them a wristband and told them that they are special in one way or another. Some people have stopped cutting, some kids have turned bullying behavior around, it goes on and on. Starting this organization, I guess I never realized so many people would take that saying straight to their hearts. It really makes an impact. The feedback from people, it makes me strive and work harder to keep pursuing and spreading the message.
5. What would you tell someone who says that they want to start something inspiring, but are not sure that one person or just a few people can make a difference?
I never planned to start an organization. That weekend my parents and I thought we were doing something for the community. We were ordering only a certain amount of wristbands, a onetime thing. When we kept getting donations and it just started growing very quickly, we knew we had an opportunity to make a difference. It still sometimes doesn’t feel real to me. But whenever I go to an event, pass a wristband, or just talk about it, I’m reminded that I love what I’m doing and I’m so grateful to be able to do it. If someone has a passion for wanting to make a difference or to do something inspiring I highly encourage them to go for it. It doesn’t have to be huge. Small things matter and they add up to make big impacts. They should strive for what they believe in, I know its so cliché to say ‘Whatever you put your mind to you can do,’ but it’s true. If you have something that you want to pursue, get the right people on board and do it!
6. How can people get involved in your movement?
People can get involved in so many ways in YCNBR; we’re always looking for people to come and get involved to spread the word. Everyone who we have come in contact with has made a difference and affected us in a different way. The easiest way is to get wristbands and start passing. Some people wear two, some people keep them by the door to grab on the way out, we’ve even had people load up their arms and go to events or runs and pass a whole bunch. You can have fundraisers for us, that helps us give wristbands to teens for free or go to a school for an assembly. You can use our character cards in groups. So if you’re a college student, you can do them with friends or go to high schools and offer to have a group after schools. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook or Instagram and share the quotes we put up. If you’re local, you can volunteer with different events, tagging wristbands. We have packets with T-shirts, wristbands, character cards, and our information that we give to pass out. We’ll come speak at your event or school and get you going; they can email for information about that. Once you are finished passing your wristbands and spreading the word you come back to us and get more. When in doubt pass it! Because the wristbands are replaceable, but the person is not. Of course send us your wristband stories!
7. Where do you hope to see your movement in five years?
In five years I’ll be out of school and hopefully working with my parents on You Can NOT Be Replaced with different events and school assemblies, talking to schools and groups. I would love to see YCNBR expand and for us to travel around to spread the word and try to reach out to as many people as we can.
8. Where else can people go for help if they are feeling depressed or want someone to talk to?
If you are feeling depressed or want to talk to someone we have different resources on our website www.youcannotbereplaced.com , where you can locate different sources from blogs, suicide prevention websites, and other non-profit organizations, where you can find more information. Don’t keep it in! My dad tells a story about a festering wound that was covered up to get better. Don’t cover it up! Let the light and the air hit that wound and ask someone who knows your heart to help you find the help you need. There’s always hope.
9. Is there anything you would like to add?
I would just like to add that you never know how far a simple act of kindness will go for someone. So keep trying to do them because you never know who you will affect that day. That’s why we chose our quote ‘No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted’. Aesop