Moose Lake residents may notice an abundance of blue ribbons, accompanied by sounds of people yelling "BING!" in the upcoming months as elementary teacher Brad Hubred works towards his goal of raising community awareness for suicide prevention.

Hubred is hoping that by distributing 5,000 blue ribbons and positive messages, the Moose Lake community can come together to make a difference in each other's lives and help prevent suicide through kindness.

We’re gonna make this big," he said.

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The journey to enact change

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Hubred first began thinking about suicide prevention roughly 15 years ago after attending a teacher's conference in Colorado, at which he heard a story about a teacher who had saved a student's life by writing him a letter detailing all the positive qualities she saw in him.

"I was thinking to myself ... 'I think I can do that,'" Hubred said.

So, he did. After returning to Little Falls, where he was teaching at the time, Hubred began writing a one-page letter to every one of his 120 students, telling them all the positive character traits that he noticed. He instructed them to keep the letter in a safe place so they could revisit it whenever they needed to.

About two years later, Hubred received news that one of his first-year students had committed suicide. This experience only motivated Hubred's more to prevent suicide.

“All it takes is one person," Hubred said. “And I’m hoping that I can be that person.”

Joining a movement

Now, Hubred has teamed up with the "Who I Am Makes A Difference" campaign — a global movement to increase positive messages — and is ramping up his annual suicide prevention presentation. For two years, he has been ordering blue ribbons from the nonprofit organization "Blue Ribbons Worldwide" to hand out alongside the letters. He and a student also recently completed a class to become "ambassadors of the blue ribbon."

The blue ribbons provide a sort of trickle down effect for positive messages and are given out to honor people. When someone presents the ribbon to another person, they read from a script and tell the person what they like about them. The person pins the ribbon on them and yells "BING!" Then, that person gets an additional ribbon to pass on to someone else, and so on and so forth.

Hubred explained that the "BING!" is a term coined by Blue Ribbons Worldwide founder Helice "Grandma Sparky" Bridges to get people to relax, smile and be excited about the message.

The "Who I Am Makes A Difference" ribbons are used as a part of Brad Hubred's suicide prevention presentation. They are meant to honor the positive traits in those receiving them. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)
The "Who I Am Makes A Difference" ribbons are used as a part of Brad Hubred's suicide prevention presentation. They are meant to honor the positive traits in those receiving them. (Izabel Johnson / ijohnson@pinejournal.com)

Bridges has been working with Hubred since he ordered his first batch of ribbons to help expand his work and experiences. She invited him and a student to take part in an online class through the campaign last spring called "Standing Strong Together."

“At first I didn’t really … get what it was, but then once I understood what it was, I was excited to do it," 12-year-old Piper Nielson said.

Nielson has been a student of Hubred's at Moose Lake for multiple years, and he shared that choosing her to take the "Standing Strong Together" class with him was a "no-brainer."

“I knew she was a good pick for this," he said. “It was really fun to be able to have a student involved.”

The class consisted of 12 total hours and included students, actors, authors and speakers from around the globe.

“I learned a lot about different people," Nielsen said, sharing that a highlight for her was getting to talk horses with "Days of Our Lives" actor Sandra Dee Robinson.

While Nielsen has only given ribbons to a handful of people, she said it is likely that she will stay involved with the campaign and that the experience has definitely been a formative one.

Blue ribbons for everyone

Even though the class is over, Hubred is far from done. In addition to ordering 5,000 ribbons, he also hopes to send his colleague Charlie Borak, who has become involved with the campaign, and another student to a "Standing Strong Together" class.

Since starting a GoFundMe on Tuesday, June 29, Hubred has raised nearly $2,000 towards ribbon purchases and "Standing Strong Together" tuition. He doesn't plan to end the fundraiser anytime soon.

“The more money, the better," Hubred said, explaining that any additional funds will be used to order more ribbons, which will then be distributed to as many communities as possible. “We want to spread it to Moose Lake and then keep it going outwards.”

To learn more about the "Who I Am Makes A Difference" campaign, contact Brad Hubred at brad.hubred@isd97.org and Helice Bridges at sparky@blueribbons.org or visit https://blueribbons.org/.