Redmond's Cari Wood was the catalyst for a viral video that became a tool for suicide prevention programs across the nation.
Redmond's Cari Wood was the catalyst for a viral video that became a tool for suicide prevention programs across the nation.

Cari Wood is ending her influential 31-year career as an athletic trainer on the highest of notes.

The Redmond High School trainer learned early this year that she was selected to be inducted into the National Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame. She and six others will receive the honor at the NATA national convention in New Orleans on June 26.

“I knew I had been nominated, but most people don't get in their first time,” said Wood, who will become the first Oregon representative in the hall of fame in 50 years. “So it was quite a surprise. It means that the work I've put in over the years has maybe made a difference.”

Wood's career achievements go far beyond her high school contributions, which started with one year at Lake Oswego (1993-94) and were followed by 30 years at Redmond. She sat on the NATA board of directors, chaired a committee marking the 50-year anniversary of Title IX and chaired a gender equity compensation task force.

“I had my hand in different things that were important to me,” said Wood, a graduate of Enterprise and Eastern Washington University. “I was able to affect, influence and support the profession from the business side.”

Wood was nominated by retired Idaho high school trainer Tony Fitzpatrick, who was inducted into the hall of fame last year.

“Anybody that knows Cari as a health care provider and athletic trainer knows that she is so empathetic,” Fitzpatrick said. “She's like everybody's mom, everybody's sister, everybody's biggest cheerleader. And as an athletic trainer, she is so on point. She deeply cares about her athletes and their well being.”

Former Redmond and Ridgeview athletic director Kevin Bryant raved about Wood.

“I'm just so excited for Cari. She's an amazing human being,” Bryant said. “She just sets the bar. I was so lucky to show up at a place where she was there. I just clapped and said, 'Nice job.' She was so good. She's revered in Redmond.”

Wood is perhaps best known for her work in mental health. Following the 2017 suicide of a Redmond three-sport athlete, Hunter Holmes, she was the catalyst for a viral video that became a tool for suicide prevention programs nationwide.

Initially, Holmes' parents asked Wood if they could provide her with training equipment as a contribution from the Hunter Holmes Foundation. Wood said that “nothing tangible felt right,” and after watching a video about mental health set in an Ohio hospital, she was inspired to make the same kind of video set at Redmond High School.

In the five-minute video, titled “Your Life Matters,” captions reveal the personal issues facing students and school staff as they confront situations throughout their day.

“Our purpose was to show people, 'You don't know what's going on in their head or their home life, so always be kind to people,'” Wood said. “It's more of a tribute to Hunter, and it would help instead of just having a piece of equipment.

“We thought, 'This is going to be really helpful for our school and our community.' We put it on Facebook and it went viral, and all of the sudden we were really impacting people throughout the nation. It was so cool, the people who reached out.”

Public agencies from across the nation contacted Wood, asking for permission to use the video for educational purposes. It led to speaking engagements for her.

“I was passionate about it because of losing Hunter,” Wood said. “I didn't want to go through that again, or have anybody else go through that again. I really educated myself and took opportunities to educate others.”

Her response to the tragedy reflected Wood's empathy for students.

“She just took a deep dive into what she could do to better serve her athletes,” Fitzpatrick said. “Recognizing when they were in need, what she could do to reach out, what steps she could take to improve their care. She's the quintessential athletic trainer where she is deeply invested in all aspects of health care.”

Randy Furman, Redmond's track and cross country coach, saw Wood's impact on a daily basis.

“You should see her therapy room,” Furman said. “Every night there are probably 10 or 12 kids in there, and some of them just to sit and talk to her, because she analyzes everything that's going on in their life.”

In 2017, Wood was inducted into the Oregon Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame and was the first woman to be inducted into the Northwest Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame. She served as president of the Oregon Athletic Trainers Society and Northwest Athletic Trainers Association.

“Her servant leadership was just extraordinary,” Fitzpatrick said. “You wanted to be like Cari.”

Wood gained the respect of her peers, as Furman discovered two years ago when one of his girl track athletes suffered an injury at the Nike Jesuit Twilight Relays and was treated by other trainers.

“We brought her over to the tent, and they went, 'Oh, this is one of Cari Wood's girls,'” Furman said. “They were just talking about how Cari Wood is the best.”

Wood's daughter, Bradi, a 2017 Redmond graduate, was a cheerleader and student body president. Her son, Riley, a 2020 graduate, competed in football and wrestling. Her husband, Jon, is retired from the Redmond Fire Department.

Wood said her deep connections at Redmond have been “so rewarding.”

“A lot of my former athletes are back here coaching or teaching, and their kids are around,” said Wood, who started the Student Athletic Training Program at Redmond, serving nearly 200 students. “Just coming full circle, and getting to work with so many families that I've known forever, they are like family to me.”

Considering the stress of the job, though, she said the time was right to relinquish her duties at the school.

“A lot of people think we're just sitting around and watching a sport, and what a fun job to get paid for, but the whole time you're watching, you're on edge,” she said. “What if somebody goes down?

“So I'm anxious to go to a wrestling tournament or a football game and be able to just watch and enjoy it, and know that I'm not in charge of somebody's livelihood or life. I'm anxious to cheer for my Panthers without responsibility.”