BEND, Ore. - One week after a pedestrian was struck and killed in Bend, Ryan Hunt's family and friends gathered Wednesday evening for a heartfelt candlelight vigil, walking along Third Street to the overpass where he was hit by more than one car.
They wore reflective and flashing gear on their dark path to advocate traffic and pedestrian safety in Bend, and red headbands in remembrance of Hunt.
Red reflectors lined the snow-covered pathway and were arranged to form a heart at the end, to represent a lost friend, brother and child.
"He was a really awesome kid, you know. My heart couldn't even begin to weigh any more than it already does,” said Hunt's brother, Cameron Gergits. “This man would have gone out of his way to take his shirt off his back and give it to anybody on the streets."
Hunt's family and friends remembered him as a wonderful person who brought kindness everywhere he went. He suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In the third grade, he was taken off his medications.
His family said he was self-medicating within a few years. His brother said Ryan did not know how to get help or the resources he needed.
"Whether he struggled with his addiction or not, he was just like anybody else's kid -- opening Christmas presents at one point in time. This year, unfortunately he didn't get to do it," Gergits said.
"Ryan was a good guy. He never meant any harm,” said Hunt’s friend, Erica Wimpish. “Me as an addict myself, you know, struggled all the time. Doesn't mean that we're different from anybody else."
Hunt's mother said she plans to push for legislation to make safety improvements in town, such as more crosswalks with flashing lights.
His grieving friends and brother agree there's a lack of pedestrian safety in Bend.
"Safety is an issue, when it comes to people walking. I used to walk the streets. I mean, I'm currently homeless right now,” Wimpish said.
Gergits added, "We want to make sure that people, you know, are aware to slow down ahead of time and make sure that we're visible at all times, to make sure this doesn't happen again.”
Cameron has started a group to help people struggling with addiction. It's called "Central Oregon Addicts Carrying a Message."
If you are having a hard time and need someone, he invites you to message him on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/683702061803005/