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Crowd funded billboards on I-15 spark conversation, boost self esteem

I-15 inspirational billboards spark conversation (Photo: Ginna Roe/KUTV)

(KUTV) — As you drive along Interstate 15, a new kind of billboard might catch your eye. The bright pink inscriptions of inspiration line the freeway from South Utah County to Davis County.

The man behind the messages, Collin Kartchner, wants to make a difference. What started as just an idea, took off overnight.

Kartchner had just run into a family friend when he heard of her daughter’s death. Whitney Bergener, of Pleasant Grove, was 23 years old when she passed away in May of 2016.

Bergener died from a drug overdose, but her parents, Roxanne and Louis Bergener, said her troubles started at a much earlier age with social media.

“She really latched on to other people’s opinions of her at a really young age,” Roxanne Bergener said, “She was a perfectionist, always wanting to fit in.”

Just over a week ago, Kartchner ran into Roxanne Bergener at a gas station. Their conversation sparked his idea. Immediately he shared Whitney’s story to Instagram.

“Everyone started chiming in and adding, ‘This happened to me, my sister, my brother.’ I got hundreds and thousands of posts,” Kartchner said. He decided to start a fundraiser to create the billboards. Within nine minutes, he reached his goal of $3,000 and by the next day, he had surpassed $14,000.

“People really do care,” he said.

Epic Marketed helped Kartchner with the design of the billboard. The digital ads read “You Are Loved,” and “You Are Beautiful” with “In Memory of Whitney” underneath.

Kartchner hopes to help curb how social media affects people negatively.

“There needs to be not just awareness, there needs to be resources. People need to have conversations with their kids. How much time are you spending on social media? How are you letting it affect you?” Kartchner said.

“It’s so important to know what’s going on with your children,” Roxanne Bergener added.

Every time she and her husband pass the billboards, they think of Whitney.

“It’s beautiful to drive down the road and see this bright pink sign. It catches you off guard. It’s been very powerful to see,” she said. “I hope it makes an impact.”

Kartchner plans to donate any leftover funds to the Utah Hope Squad, an organization that works with youth in the area on issues like depression and suicide prevention.

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