In this lightly edited interview with Ad Age, Thompson spoke about the foundation’s mission, Droga5’s involvement, and the impact her son had on others.
How did you start working on the idea for this?
We knew we wanted to do something to honor who he was, what he represented. Hayden was a very magnetic teen who really looked after everyone. And we got hundreds of letters. People from the hockey world, from his Darien life—everything that said how many times he had pulled everyone together, broken the ice, thought about someone who might not have been thought about. We thought ‘What do we do to represent who he was, and do something that helps what really is an epidemic with the loneliness and mental health crisis that an entire generation of young adults feel?'
What part did Droga5 play in the initiative?
I talked to David Droga early on, that was probably January. And he was just like, ‘Well, we have to be a part of this.’ Our experience working with Droga5 was probably the biggest possible shoulder check a human being could get. We started talking to them about wanting to do something around who Hayden was. They were working on a book for me with all the letters that we had received. Some of their creative people and strategists were immersed in that. And they came up with the idea of Shoulder Check. Our intent is to make reaching out, checking in, and making contact an aspirational part of young adulthood.
They probably did more than I had ever anticipated, and they insisted on it, like, ‘Okay, we need to think about the merch, we need to think about the content strategy, how we get out in the world, the tone, how we set the cadence for getting to a launch, and then how do we think about what the next chapter is?’ So they really were like family.
At the event we had people from Droga5 doing manual labor, sitting in our house creating assets until 3 in the morning. They were a partner in helping to launch this brand and event but it was really the thinking, the look and feel.
There are amazing quotes about Hayden on the HT40 website. Were you surprised to see all those kind words to that level about Hayden?
I wasn’t surprised because I knew who Hayden was. I was proud and being able to do something that [to honor] how he went through life [that Shoulder Check] is the inspiration for, I feel very fortunate in having partners that helped bring it to life. We’ve had so many young adults and adults come up to us and say, ‘Hey, I had a crisis moment myself.’ The numbers are pretty staggering.
Some people at the event [thanked us for] ‘doing this and talking about it and making it aspirational and hearing some of these NHL players in the hockey world that we look up to talking about the importance of supporting each other [rather than] assuming what's going on with someone.’
I'm really proud that he helped inspire this.
Was there a certain part of the event that stood out to you personally?
The ceremony where Dave Maloney [Rangers commentator and former NHL player] called out the 2006 players who were Hayden's best friends—they're some of the best players in the nation who are 17 years old. When they came out and then NHL players came out and he asked the crowd to say, ‘Reach out, check in, make contact,’ and everyone said it together and put their hands on each other's shoulder. The NHL guys were there giving my husband a fist pump and supporting each other and the younger players and looking out to the audience. I think it was amazing to just say that line in that big group and for people to feel it, I think really hit me.