Students, staff reflect on passing of ‘Save the Kids’ speaker Collin Kartchner

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Grant Johnson

TEDx Speaker Collin Kartcher speaks with Grant Johnson and Beau Cormican after his presentation at the high school. Kartchner passed away from a life-threatening condition Oct. 20, 2020. “I started this movement three years ago because of my family friend who ended up dying from suicide,” Kartchner said in an interview following his speech. “Later we found out that so much of it had to do with the stress and anxiety from social media.”

Grant Johnson, HTN Daily News Director

The 598 students of Rock Hill High School’s freshman class piled into the campus auditorium for an assembly on October 8, 2020. The event was advertised for months, promising a way for parents to “learn how to better connect with (their) child in the digital age,” and the assembly did exactly what it promised. 

A poster advertises Kartchner’s presentation at the high school in Oct. (Photo Credit: Prosper Education Foundation)

Collin Kartchner, founder of the Utah-based advocacy group Save the Kids, shared his message for students, parents and Prosper ISD’s administration. His message to #savethekids and #savetheparents, encouraging people to put their phones down and go live a “beautiful life.” Using the same message presented to the freshmen, Kartchner has spoken before executives of Nike, Adidas and a room full of spectators at his own TED Talk.

“I started this movement three years ago because of my family friend who ended up dying from suicide,” Kartchner said in an interview following his speech. “Later we found out that so much of it had to do with the stress and anxiety from social media.”

Kartchner shared this message over 500 times a year all over the United States. His final message he ever shared was that Thursday afternoon in the RHHS arena. 

Two weeks after his visit to Prosper, TX, Kartchner found himself in the hospital with a life-threatening condition. On October 20, 2020, he passed away, surrounded by his family. Twelve days earlier, Kartchner spoke to students telling them to live a “beautiful life” when he didn’t get to finish his own.

Following his death, Prosper ISD students and parents shared their condolences and donated to his GoFundMe page that ultimately raised over $319,200.

Speaker Collin Kartchner fist bumps students in the hallway following his presentation. Kartcher has spoken before corporations like Nike, as well as before a TEDx audience.

“I’m so sad to hear of his passing,” parent Meghan Miller said on social media after the Prosper ISD announcement of his death. “His presentation was one of the best I’ve ever heard. I will think of him every time I do our 8-second hug.”   

The 8-second hug Miller referred to was something he encouraged at the end of his presentation and gave out after the assembly along with fist bumps. Senior Brien Gulsvig was given the opportunity to speak with him one-on-one. 

“When I was showing him around, he was just so nice to us all,” Gulsvig said. “Whenever I found out he passed away, it was heartbreaking.” 

A stop sign with one of Kartchner’s positive message stickers stands outside the Firestone Tire Center on US 380. “When I was showing him around, he was just so nice to us all,” senior Brien Gulsvig said. “Whenever I found out he passed away, it was heartbreaking.”

Prosper ISD issued the following statement after Kartchner’s death:

“We are saddened to hear of the unexpected passing of Child Advocate Collin Kartchner. We were honored to have Mr. Kartchner here in Prosper just two weeks ago speaking to students and parents about Connecting in the Digital Age and the dangers of social media.”

Kartchner is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and their four children: Avery, Quincey, Lola and Myles. Kartchner’s legacy lives on in a community 1,224 miles from his own (Salt Lake City). Stickers he placed on stop signs like this one in front of Firestone Tire Center on US 380 can be found around town.

“The best part of doing the speeches is afterward when kids come up,” Kartchner said. “When they’ve got tears in their eyes, they hug me and say that changed my life.”