Cheryl Love wears a t-shirt with her son’s name on it, and a “Vanilla Thunder” logo, his nickname when on the court. She holds a basketball signed by all the participants in the first Isaac Williams-Herrington 3 on 3 memorial tournament, put together to raise funds and awareness for suicide prevention, after Isaac died by suicide in November 2017. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Esquimalt High fights mental health stigma on the basketball court

The Isaac Williams-Herrington Memorial Tournament honours an Esquimalt teen who died by suicide

Isaac Williams-Herrington was a fun, goofy and athletic guy.

“He had such a unique style, I haven’t seen another person pull off what he would wear,” said his mother, Cheryl Love. “I mean, he wore visors and anything Nike. He was basically a Nike model.”

On the basketball court he was known as Vanilla Thunder for his tall figure, flowing blonde hair and competitive ferocity. He played for both the Esquimalt High team, and the Night League.

Love added that besides his quirkiness, Williams-Herrington was a genuine character.

“He was bright, funny and caring,” Love said. “He was someone his friends could rely on.”

But Williams-Herrington also had underlying mental health problems which nobody knew about until Nov. 19, 2017.

“That day he asked me to buy him some more basketball equipment,” Love said. “He passed that afternoon.”

Williams-Herrington died by suicide in his own home. He was 16.

ALSO READ: Former B.C. Mountie who fought harassment in the force dies by suicide

His family was run over with shock.

“Hindsight, there were a few things that could have been signs, but we didn’t know,” Love said.

For this reason, Love and her family decided to share what had happened with his teams and friends at Esquimalt High School, and take steps to make sure more people feel comfortable talking about mental health and suicide.

Just six months after Williams-Herrington’s death, his family and friends organized the Isaac Williams-Herrington Memorial 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament. The two-day event brought together the community that Williams-Herrington loved, and that loved him back.

Isaac Williams-Herrington was know as Vanilla Thunder on the basketball court (File submitted)

Over 50 students participated, and over $7,000 was raised for the Need2 Suicide Prevention group, and the high school. At the end of the tournament, everyone signed a basketball and presented it to Love, who keeps it as a centrepiece in her home.

This year, the tournament will run again on April 12 and 13 at Esquimalt High School. Students from any school between grades 9-12 are welcome to join. A $20 fee will get each participant a t-shirt bearing a Vanilla Thunder logo, designed by Esquimalt High’s graphic design class. The winning team will win a first-place prize valued at $500.

ALSO READ: Bell Let’s Talk sees nearly 1 billion interactions on mental health since 2011

If someone can’t afford the fee they can still play, Love said, the event is more about getting the conversation going.

“Talking about it really just helps to end the stigma,” Love said. “When someone dies of cancer or an illness there’s a bit more sympathy with it… but if someone says they’re dealing with depression, people will be like ‘oh stay back, I don’t want to catch that.’”

Love added that in her own realm the conversations are changing; her son’s friends have become a lot more comfortable talking about mental health, and she is pursuing education in mental health with hopes of eventually working with youth.

This year, all funds raised will go towards suicide prevention programs.

People can still register for the event by heading to esquimalt.sd61.ca/school-spotlight/3-on-3-basketball-tournament.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Just Posted

Economic inequality, immigration still need work in Victoria: Prosperity index

Housing, environmental health factors show improvements in 2019: report

WATCH: Soon-to-be guide dogs take part in the Amazing Puppy Race

10 puppies training to be guide dogs took part in a social Easter egg hunt

Victoria City Councillor Laurel Collins wins federal NDP nomination

Collins will run for Victoria in the upcoming federal election

Long weekend starts with series of crashes

The long weekend traffic pile up is starting with a series of… Continue reading

Victoria church bells toll in solidarity with Notre Dame Cathedral after devastating fire

Churches around the globe ring bells to honour iconic Paris cathedral

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. senior sentenced for sexually abusing special-needs granddaughter

73-year-old Cortes Island man will go to jail for three years

Howe Sound Queen sailing toward retirement

Vessel now up for auction ends regular runs between Crofton and Vesuvius at the beginning of June

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Most Read