Grieving mom, Hallie Twomey, put a call out on Facebook after losing her veteran son, CJ, to suicide. Her request: To honor her son’s memory by scattering his ashes in as many amazing places as possible. The request went viral. A global community formed to scatter CJ’s ashes in thousands of locations worldwide, helping Hallie find the courage to become a powerful voice in the fight against suicide.
HALLIE TWOMEY, CJ’s Mother (Scattering CJ)
ETHAN OSER, Associate Producer, Scattering CJ, Spark Media
DR. CARRIE ALEXANDER-ALBRITTON
Professor, Department of Counselor Education and College Student Personnel, Western Illinois University
DENISE BEENK, LISW, MBA, Vera French Community Mental Health Center
BRANDON KUTMAS, MS, LCPC, LMHC, Quad City Behavioral Health Associates
Call or text 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
When seemingly happy, travel-infatuated CJ Twomey violently ended his own life at age 20, his family was plunged into unrelenting grief and guilt. In a moment of desperate inspiration, his mother Hallie put out an open call on Facebook, looking only for a handful of travelers who might help fulfill her son's wish to see the world by scattering some of his ashes in a place of beauty or special meaning.
Twenty-one thousand strangers liked the Facebook page, and one thousand volunteers have since taken CJ to over one hundred countries. While crisscrossing the globe, his ashes and his family’s story have given rise to a social media phenomenon—a worldwide community—that has congregated in solidarity and empathy in dealing with a still heavily stigmatized and misunderstood form of mental illness.
Aggregating hundreds of clips chronicling personal ash-scattering pilgrimages worldwide, combined with intimate interviews and vérité filmmaking, Hallie’s story—one that has cross-pollinated and traveled so organically, resonantly, inspirationally—shows us that social media can act as a connector and a vehicle for empathy, as opposed to the more toxic aspects of social media interaction we're currently witnessing. Her story further illustrates how there can be positive action grown from suicide, and that even if it isn't reliably predictable, it just may in some cases be preventable.
Scattering CJ is a Spark Media production written, produced and directed by Emmy-winning filmmaker Andrea Kalin, is both an uplifting and raw story, which examines how CJ’s memory is kept alive through the kindness of strangers willing to scatter his ashes in places of meaning and beauty throughout the world.
“There is no ‘good news story’ when it comes to suicide,” says Kalin. “But the innate goodness Hallie hit upon when she put out that call to the world on Facebook remains profoundly moving and inspiring to us. Hallie trusted our team to chronicle her family’s story during a period of unimaginable loss, and we never took that trust lightly. Her story illustrates the extraordinary bonds formed among strangers through social media and is a much-needed antidote to the darker side of the Internet.”
“The process of making this film has only reinforced for me a thousand times over that we are all responsible for our state of mental health as a society,” says David Lobatto, the film’s producer. “To assert that you will never be affected by mental illness, directly or indirectly, throughout your lifetime is like saying you will never catch a cold or cut your finger. It is through the incredible endeavors of people like Hallie Twomey and the prowess of activists like Andrea Kalin that shame can be driven out of the subject, and the tools to get help for people in need can be most widely and effectively deployed.
Founded by filmmaker Andrea Kalin, Washington D.C.-based Spark Media specializes in
producing trailblazing documentaries and digital storytelling. With over 100 prestigious, industry awards, Spark Media strives to both inform and inspire audiences with stories that are compelling, entertaining and real.