• Stark County Pulse


Updated: Feb 21, 2018

In the wake of tragedy, so many people struggle to process their grief on their own. One family, locked in grief, struggled to make sense of their own loss. Instead of turning inward and isolating themselves from the world, they turned their heartache into something beautiful. As a family they wrapped their arms around one another and found the strength that was needed to create a foundation that would carry on the legacy of the love they lost. This is Hayden’s story...

Hayden was one of the teenagers who recently took his own life in Perry Township. But that one act does not define who he was as a human being. His family doesn’t want him remembered as a statistic. They want you to see and get to know the beautiful person that always put other people before himself. They want him to be remembered as the vibrant young man who loved his family and his friends more than anything else in life.

Hayden was a fun loving, caring, and charismatic young man. He was even known as the jokester of his family. He loved to fish, swim, skate, and hang out with his friends. He was an active member of his family and more often than not, gravitated toward the little ones. The photos you’ll see of Hayden are ones filled with love and light. He often had his younger siblings and cousins on his hip or in his arms whenever they were around. Hayden had an optimistic outlook on life and was the light in everyone’s eye. His first and foremost concern in life was always looking out for everyone and making sure they were happy and cared for. He longed to make everyone’s life better.

His father, Shaun Porter, shared a memory of his and Hayden’s time together. When Hayden was six years old they went to Cedar Point together. They were waiting in line and ride the Magnum for the first time and, like any child, Hayden’s nerves got the best of him. He didn’t let that discourage him and he bravely faced his own fears and climbed on the ride anyway. What makes this memory so beautiful is that Shaun first rode this coaster when he was six years old and there he stood with his own six-year-old son for his first ever roller coaster experience. That is definitely a memory worth holding close to the heart.

Hayden’s grandmother, Michele Welch, described him as an old soul. She said that he was her talking buddy and that they could share anything with each other. She said they talked about the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. They were like two peas in a pod. She talked about him as one would talk about of their best friend.

His mother, Ashley Jones, admits to not knowing much about technology because Hayden was her technology Guru. She laughed as she told us about how she has to go to the phone store now for help.

His grandfather, Dean Porter, couldn’t hold back his laughter when he described how the two of them would give gag gifts at Christmas. Two years ago, Hayden left his coat at his house so Grandpa wrapped it up and gifted it back to him for Christmas. Last Christmas Grandpa gave him the most sought-after gift by any young teen boy… a 5x7 picture of Grandpa himself!

His Aunt, Tiffany Poirier, laughed about how Hayden jokingly wondered what he would call himself if he ever made it as a successful rapper, which she and her daughter teased him about. She spoke with pride in her voice when she talked about how Hayden was looking forward to going to college and becoming an Investment Banker.

His Step-Grandmother, Randi Porter, described their Thanksgiving together and how she watched him tackle his Aunt Ashley while everyone else followed his lead and piled on top of her, too.

His entire family holds on to their memories of a normal, fun-loving teenage boy who they all loved with all of their hearts.

Hayden’s family is struggling to understand why he made the forever choice that he did. Hayden’s family is one of six families in the Perry Township community who are dealing with the death of a teenage son or daughter. The families each handle their grief, confusion, anger, and pain in their own way. Hayden’s family has decided to tell his story and to give their boy a way to live on and still have a way to do what he always loved to do… help people. Hayden’s Story; The Hayden Porter Foundation was created in his name to help support families affected by suicide and to help prevent further teen suicide. Their mission is to give teens a voice and to allow them talk to adults about what they want and need from them as parents and as a community. As stated in the interview, some family members feel as if adults are disconnected and that we need to follow our teenager’s lead. With this foundation they hope to give the kids a platform and a voice so that they aren’t afraid to speak out and to speak up for themselves.

The biggest goal for the Hayden Porter Foundation is to create a peer-to-peer support system inside Perry High School. They’re hoping this will encourage the teenagers to speak up when something isn’t feeling right inside of themselves. Both Tiffany Poirier and Dean Porter have met with Perry High School officials and are working on developing a training curriculum for such a support system. The Perry High School Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program will be in existence in the 2018-2019 school year. Training the teens for the Peer-to-Peer program will occur over the summer. The training will consist of topics such as active listening, how to read beyond words, and how to get their peers to talk to them so they can offer support.

Hayden’s family has reached out to several professionals in the area and are still lining up volunteers to assist with the program. Professional counselors will always be available to the Peers, as well. The main priority are the kids in the community. Coming from the outside in, the foundation will be the eyes and ears that will assist the school. They will also be the ones who will contact the families of troubled teens and, together with the family, work to get the child the care he or she needs.

As the Hayden Porter Foundation grows, the family has big hopes for its future. At some point they, through donations, hope they can offer to pay for the counseling services for teens and families that may not be able to otherwise afford the proper mental health care for their child. They also hope to spread the program throughout the different school districts in Canton.

The foundation is still in the infancy stages but everything starts from nothing. They hope to make their dreams a reality and they hope that together they can truly make Hayden’s name live forever. In order to do that they will need the help of the public. They need your donations and your time. If you don’t have money to give, your time will do, as well. Volunteers are always welcomed for their future fundraising events.

The family has found support from across the nation and are looking for ideas from anyone who wants to help. They’re open to suggestions on events and on how to reach out to families and teens. They’re especially interested in hearing from the teenagers in the community about how they can help them and what it is they need.

Hayden loved helping others and, through this foundation, his story will continue to be told. His helping hand can still be utilized through his loving family and this foundation.

List of Events:

2/24 - Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament

5pm | Knights of Columbus | 1015 Perry Dr. NW

$75.00 buy in $50 goes to the foundation

$25 goes to prize pool

Food, fun, basket drawings, 50/50.

As of 2/10 only 25 seats left to sell

3/3 - Dine and Donate

6pm - 9pm | Tiger Town Grille & Pub | 48 2nd St. SE

10% of food purchase goes toward the foundation

4/6 - Dine and Donate

6pm - 9pm | Gametime | 5153 W Tuscarawas St.

10% of food sales, raffles, 50/50

6/24 - Poker Run

Still in the planning stages.

The family can be reached through the foundation's website: HaydensStory.org

Monetary donations can be made through the foundation’s website. The Hayden Porter Foundation is also accepting donations such as gift baskets and gift certificates to use in their raffles. The family is appreciative of any donations from a family, church, business or organization. The foundation will also need volunteers for their events. Their largest event will be the Poker Run in June, which they will have signup sheets posted for on their website.

Hayden’s family leaves us with some advice: Slow down, take the time, listen and pay attention to one another. Build your child’s confidence and let them know their worth. Hayden’s grandfather cautions people by saying, “Tell someone if you hear anyone talk about suicide or if they’re depressed. They may get mad at you but at least they’ll be here to be mad at you. They’ll get over it.”

As a community, we’re all in this together, we all grieve together, and we all need to heal together. The family stated that if one life is saved by this foundation, then everything they are doing will be worth it.

In a world of uncertainty, would it not be the most beautiful thing to see everything set aside as we come together as one for the greater good. A good that will help the future of our community and make our world stronger, wiser, and braver than ever before. I believe that Hayden would have loved to witness something so grand.

So, in his name, let us continue to write Hayden’s story together.


Journalist: Melissa Bowman

Email: melissa.bowmanpulse@gmail.com

Videographer: Jay Pix

Graphics: Rayn Burke

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