It’s a sign

Father-daughter duo offers encouragement to passing drivers


Photo by Caden Rainwater

Joel Dillahunty holds a sign to encourage passing drivers. Dillahunty and his daughter stood near the road before school.

Story by Anna Grace Jones, editor in chief

They stand on the corner of Summerhill and Kennedy, out of the way but present. They hold signs of encouragement and reassurance for passerbyers to see on their morning drive. “You are worth it” and “don’t give up” dot the road on Wednesday mornings before the school day begins.

Joel and Blair Dillahunty, a father and daughter, have made it their mission to remind the people of their town that they are loved and important. The Dillahuntys have noticed the nation’s increasing suicide rate, especially in teenagers, and decided to do their part to fight this trend. 

“We want to let people know that they are worthy of love, their mistakes don’t define them and suicide is a long-term solution to a short-term problem,” Joel Dillahunty said. “We want to give them hope not to give up because there are people that care.”

Although the Dillahuntys did not ignite this movement, they have sparked a branch of it within Texarkana.

“A group of mothers actually started this [movement] a couple years ago because of the same problem in their town, and it’s just kind of spread. We need to let people know they’re worthy,” Joel Dillahunty said. “My wife is a kindergarten teacher, so she took some of these signs to Wake Village Elementary. They’re doing the same thing there.”

Personal ties have emphasized the necessity of this movement for Joel and Blair. 

“We’ve all been in those situations where we feel like we can’t do it anymore. I want to encourage everybody [so they know] that they are worthy of love,” Blair Dillahunty said. “I think hearing about all the suicides happening and feeling all the negativity, [made us want to] encourage people that we’re all here for a reason. Every Wednesday, we plan on coming out here just to do it.”

The duo may be distanced from their audience, but this has not hindered the impact they have made on their community. Public acclamation encourages the Dillahuntys to continue to encourage others.

“We’ve had a lot of people honk their horn, wave at us or give us a thumbs up, so that’s encouraging. We’ve heard through the grapevine, on Facebook and things like that, people have commented that they’d seen the signs and how much they needed it that morning because of things going on in their life,” Joel Dillahunty said. “You never know who’s hurting, so why not try to encourage everyone?”