Her flight leaves LAX at 11:55 p.m. and lands in Portland at 2:28 in the morning.

She knows this routine by heart: a Friday night in the stands watching her youngest son, a red-eye to the Pacific Northwest, a Saturday packed with tailgating and college football. This time she’ll pick up a car and drive straight to Eugene, pulling in just as students are gathering in Oregon’s Memorial Quad for the taping of ESPN’s “College GameDay.”

When you’re a football mom, sleep is optional. Kym Hilinski never stopped being a football mom, even when the whole reason behind her routine was ripped away.

“I don’t want to miss a moment of it,” Hilinski said. “I won’t sleep, but we never slept when we went up to see Tyler. We never did, and we didn’t care, because we got to see Tyler.”

Around the time Kym Hilinski is driving the final stretch of Interstate 5, a group of Washington State alums will be gathering in the morning chill. This will mark the 213th consecutive episode of “College GameDay” that features Ol’ Crimson, the Washington State flag, fluttering in the background.

The Ol’ Crimson Booster Club, a network of more than 200 Cougar fans around the country, makes sure the Wazzu flag is visible during every broadcast, a tradition that began in 2003. As soon as ESPN announces a GameDay location, the flags are shipped via UPS to another group of fans for display at that week’s show.

The group’s three traditional flags are known as Ol’ Crimson, Whitey (since retired) and Stripey. The flags have undergone some alterations through the years, mostly to honor Washington State luminaries who passed away. This year, they’ve added a new wrinkle: a flag featuring the No. 3, in honor of Tyler Hilinski.

Hilinski, who was in line to be Washington State’s starting quarterback this season, took his own life Jan. 16 in his Pullman apartment. Since then his parents, Mark and Kym, have started the Hilinski’s Hope foundation dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues.

Their story resonated with Craig Murphy, a Washington State alum who lives in Springfield. Murphy has attended eight or nine “College GameDay” broadcasts as part of the flag-waving crew. He once drove four hours to wave the flag in Lincoln, Neb., when he lived in Iowa. Another time, a film crew chronicled his trip for a commercial that aired in Washington during the Super Bowl.

Murphy poured out his heart in a letter to the Hilinskis last spring, letting them know how much it meant to hear them speaking openly about Tyler’s death. Somewhere along the way, an idea was hatched. The next time GameDay visited the West Coast, Kym would try to make the trip and wave Tyler’s flag.

When ESPN announced it was coming to Eugene for Saturday’s game between Oregon and Stanford, the plan went into motion. Kym booked her flight and arranged to meet up with Murphy and a dozen or so other fans for the GameDay broadcast.

Murphy’s voice cracked with emotion as he imagined seeing Kym walk through the crowd Saturday morning.

“I’m a dad,” Murphy said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose my son. For them to go through that and still be open and talk to others — I’d hope that I’d be able to do that in that situation.

“They are doing it, they have done it, and they will continue to do it.”

Kym credits her fellow Cougs for helping the family deal with the grief surrounding Tyler’s death. That’s despite a lack of public acknowledgement from the university, which has avoided ongoing memorials on the advice of suicide-prevention experts.

The Hilinski family was in Pullman last week to raise the Cougar flag before Washington State’s home opener against San Jose State. But aside from a few general announcements about mental health, Tyler’s death wasn’t acknowledged.

“They didn’t even say my son’s name,” Kym said. “That was hurtful. I’ll never understand it.”

The fear is that drawing attention to a high-profile suicide might encourage copycat deaths. In response, Kym can point to a stack of letters she’s received from families who heard Tyler's story and found the strength to seek help.

The Hilinskis believe that talking openly about mental health is the best way to remove the stigma surrounding suicide deaths. Such openness, they realize, might have helped Tyler when he began suffering from suicidal impulses, and it could help someone else in the same position.

That’s why the Hilinskis spend their days doing interviews, mailing out wristbands and talking to groups of student-athletes. It doesn’t erase the pain, but it’s the best way they’ve found to move forward.

“You can take all the attention back and give me my son for just one more moment,” Kym said. “I would just go live on an island the rest of my life, but that’s not going to happen. I have to keep moving.”

Everywhere they go, the Hilinskis encounter people whose lives have been affected by suicide. That will be true here, too. A day ago, The Register-Guard reported that Lane County has a suicide rate 50 percent greater than the national average, and the majority of Lane County men who die from suicide do so without seeking mental health help.

Those numbers aren’t a surprise to Murphy. Drawing attention to the trend is part of the reason for Kym Hilinski’s visit.

“I would imagine that the vast majority of adults have either a friend or a family member who’s committed suicide, or attempted it or thought about it themselves,” Murphy said. “It’s a huge problem in this country, but there’s such a stigma around it.”

The scope of the problem can feel overwhelming, and for those affected, the pain doesn’t relent. But if you want to know what hope looks like, scan the crowd Saturday morning and look for Kym Hilinski.

She’ll be there, waving the flag.

Follow Austin on Twitter @austinmeekRG. Email ameek@registerguard.com.