Happy Birthday, Jared Padalecki!
There’s something very special about the birthday of someone you care about – someone who changed the world you live in just by being born into it. That might be a child or a partner or a good friend, and in some cases it might be a person who plays a character you love on a television show you adore. I can’t imagine Supernatural without Sam Winchester, and I can’t imagine Sam Winchester being played by anyone other than Jared Padalecki. There are many things and many people who make Supernatural the special show that it is, but from the start, the actors who brought Eric Kripke’s Sam and Dean to life so vividly ensured that it would be a show with the potential to change lives. And it has. That alone makes Jared a special person in my book.
But there’s so much more. When Jared had the courage to start talking about his own battles with anxiety and depression, he validated countless fans who had also struggled with their mental health. He made it okay to open up and be real, refusing to allow his ‘celebrity’ status to keep him silent. I still remember that Comic Con panel in Hall H when we all sat there holding up the Always Keep Fighting candles to honor his bravery and show our support for his fight, just as he has unfailingly showed his support for ours. The Always Keep Fighting and other Represent campaigns have not only contributed to charities that exist to help people in their fight, but they also gave fans a way to ‘speak out’ as well and to support each other.
All that is enough of a reason to make Jared special. But there’s more. When I wanted to write a book that pulled together the stories of all the fans whose lives had been changed by Supernatural and the SPN Family, it was Jared who was brave enough to say that he had a story to tell too. It’s one thing to talk about your battle with depression in a brief interview or as part of a tee shirt campaign. It’s entirely another to write a 30 page chapter that gets as real as you can get about that battle – that takes you right down into the trenches with Jared in the midst of his most difficult moments ever. When he sent me the first draft, I sat there with tears streaming down my face and then replied to him with just a few words: Are you sure? He was. Because he knew that only by being that open and that real would he really be able to make a difference. Since Family Don’t End With Blood was published, I have heard from hundreds and hundreds of fans who have read Jared’s chapter and decided that they would keep fighting too. I’ve cried countless times reading their stories of bravery and battle, and I’ve shared some of them with Jared so he’ll know too that his courage is making a difference.
Those are the big things, the things I think of right away when it’s Jared’s birthday. There are little things too. The way I’ve seen him kneel down to hold the hand of a young fan overcome at trying to talk to him. The way he soldiers on even when he himself is feeling close to overcome with emotion, empathic person that he is. The way he cares about his costars and crew members and everyone on set and works so hard to create the unique and supportive atmosphere there is. The way he cared so much about writing his chapter that it took two years, because he so wanted to get it right. Who he is with family and who he is with friends – and who he is with fans.
We wanted to do something to celebrate Jared’s birthday that would make a difference, so we asked him which charity he’d like the proceeds of the project to go to. He chose the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is so important and so needed. An original design ‘Always Keep Fighting/Never Give Up’ tee shirt by artist Angie Siketa raised money for the Hotline in Jared’s honor. Thank you to everyone who contributed! We also auctioned a copy of Family Don’t End With Blood signed by Jared, Jensen, Misha and many more, with all proceeds going to the Hotline. The auction ended at $1,975.00!! And as always, every day, every copy of Family Don’t End With Blood that’s sold raises money for Random Acts and Attitudes in Reverse, two charities that are constantly making a difference.
So today I’m smiling, because it’s Jared Padalecki’s birthday. He’s not perfect, because Chuck knows, no one is. But he’s one of the good guys, and I’m tremendously grateful that Fate chose him to portray Sam Winchester. I can’t imagine how differently this wild ride of the past thirteen years would have gone if someone else had. I’m so very glad to know you, Jared – I hope on this birthday you know just how special you are.
Links to Family Don’t End With
Blood and Jared’s chapter on
the home page