22 Kill ‘Push-up Challenge' Has North Texas Ties

Ominous name has honorable purpose; to reverse veteran suicide trend

A North Texas nonprofit with an ominous name hopes its "push-up challenge" gaining traction on social media does more than just raise awareness.

"22 Kill" gets its name from the 22 military veterans who, on average, commit suicide every day, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Something needs to be done," said 22 Kill deputy director Don Nguyen. "Our best hope is the average person realizes why they are able to do what they do. It’s because of our service members."

Many people are already doing something: posting videos to social media of themselves doing 22 push-ups.

"That’s great," Nguyen said. "We love it when we see that happen organically."

The challenge began in 2014 when a representative from the Hersh Foundation, a private family foundation based in Irving, offered to donate $10,000 if the nonprofit could encourage 100 people to post push-up videos to social media within a week.

"Within a few hours, we have 300 videos," Nguyen said with a smile.

In response, the Hersh Foundation upped the ante. It offered $100,000 for 1,000 push-up videos in a week. Again, the results blew away expectations, with more than 3,000 push-up videos uploaded to social media within a matter of days.

22 Kill received $100,000 to help connect veterans to counseling and educational opportunities. And the push-ups kept coming.

"To be able to go on my Facebook news feed and see strangers go out there and talk about it and actually invite their friends to do it, go and do 22 push-ups to honor those who have served and to remember the 22 veterans that commit suicide, yeah, that’s exactly what we’re about," Nguyen said.

A search of #22KillChallenge returns a seemingly unending supply of videos, some featuring familiar faces.

"Everyday 22 Veterans commit suicide in this country, as Texans we know that number is unacceptable. That is why today I am doing 22 pushups to help raise awareness as part of the ‪#‎22kill‬ Project," wrote Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush in a Facebook post late Thursday night. "I will post a new video each day for the next 22 days, each with someone new being challenged."

Bush, the son of former 2016 Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush and nephew of former U.S. President George W. Bush, went on to challenge the members of the 85th Texas Legislative Session.

In January, the Fort Worth Police Department posted a video showing dozens of officers doing push-ups in a parking lot.

"Just a couple weeks ago we were invited to go and talk to the Dallas Stars, they invited us to one of their practices," Nguyen recalled. "So we went right out there on the ice and spoke to them about it. We reminded them why this country is great. It’s because of those veterans, and we need to remember them. And they dropped down right there on the ice and pushed out 22 for us."

Nguyen assured potential participants the challenge's message is not a test of strength.

"I tell people, 'I'm not challenging you. I’m not trying to see how many push-ups you can do. I’m not trying to see how strong you are,'" he emphasized. "All it's about is taking those few moments out of the day, humbling yourself down no matter who you are. It’s about humbling yourself down and saying 'Thank you' to our veterans that served."

If you’re into more than push-ups, you can get out and help 22 Kill in an upcoming service project. They're seeking volunteers for a park cleanup project at Clearview Park in Plano April 9.

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