A touching moment graced the Supernatural panel at San Diego Comic Con this weekend, leaving fans and cast alike touched.
Several months ago, Padalecki started a campaign called “Always Keep Fighting” to benefit “To Write Love On Her Arms,” a charity which helps people struggling with depression, self harm, addiction and suicide. Jensen Ackles later joined the campaign and together they have sold over 70,000 t-shirts that read either “Always Keep Fighting” or “Moose and Squirrel Say Always Keep Fighting” through Represent.com. From there, fans started buying up the design left and right, even starting campaigns to help fans who couldn’t afford to buy one themselves. Soon there were “Always Keep Fighting” support groups and the hashtag #AlwaysKeepFighting was trending on social media.
This campaign came out of Padalecki’s own struggle with depression. “Maybe a lot of people don’t know this, but Season 3, we were shooting an episode, and I went back to my trailer to get changed and just kind of broke down,” Padalecki told Variety. “A doctor came to set and talked to me for about 30 minutes or 45 minutes and said: ‘Jared, I think you’re clinically depressed. I think I should write you a note and we can shut down production for five days and then we can take it from there.’ ”
“These characters that we play on ‘Supernatural,’ Sam and Dean, are always dealing with something greater than themselves, and I’ve sort of learned from the two of them that they get through it with each other, and with help and with support,” Padalecki said to Variety.
Earlier this year, Padalecki canceled his appearance at two conventions due to his need for time with his family. He was exhausted and needed the time off. Many fans believe this was at least partly due to a bout of depression Padalecki had been struggling with lately. He reached out to fans for support, asking them to write to him.
Not long after, thousands of tweets, messages, letters, and fan art came rolling in, all of them expressing how much the actor meant to his fans and how Supernatural had helped them through their own battles with mental illness. Days later, Padalecki thanked his fans and after several weeks of rest, seems to be doing well.
The Supernatural fandom decided to show Padalecki just a little more how much they cared. San Diego Comic Con was the first time Padalecki had been to a convention since his Twitter outreach and fans wanted to do something special. In the line for the panel, a group of fans were passing out little bags with electric candles and a note. The note revealed that once a cue was given, fans were to turn their candles on and hold them up in the air.
When the moment came, the candles switched on and at first the panelists were confused. Jensen Ackles noticed the lights and his fellow panelists turning to take selfies with them and stopped mid-sentence to figure out what they were. “What’s happening right now?!” he asked. “I think you’re supposed sing Freebird,” joked one of the moderators. It then became clear as fans began shouting, “ALWAYS KEEP FIGHTING!” Touched, the cast applauded them, several giving a standing ovation to their fans for the gesture.
“I’m holding the candle in my pocket right now, I can’t let go of it,” Padelecki tearfully told E! News. He felt incredibly humbled. “At first I didn’t know what it was. I thought people were holding up their iPhones or something. And then someone handed me the note explaining it and I found out what was really going on. It took everything in my power not to cry.”
“Everyone is given a candle that burns just for them,” The note said. “When your flame flickers and you fear it will go out, know not even the strongest wind lasts forever; and there are other lights to guide you even in the Darkness…And when your candle burns bright, you can ignite the hearts of others and hope will spread like wildfire…Always Keep Fighting, and you’ll never fight alone.”
“I thought there was like a rock band about to come out that I didn’t know about,” Ackles also told E! News. “I was like, ‘What is going on? What is happening right now?’ But it’s just this continuing thing. I’m astonished at the support that these fans give Jared and give us on the show, day in and day out.”
The cast’s relationship to their fans really is like a family. They catch each other when they fall. They collaborate with each other on projects like Misha Collins’ scavenger hunt G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. and through his charity “Random Acts.” The cast goes above and beyond for their fans and this weekend just proved once again how far the fans will go for their favorite actors and the story that changed their lives.
“I am beyond moved. I feel so blessed, and grateful, and honored to be a part of the magical Supernatural Family,” Jared said later on Facebook next to a photo of him with one of the candles. “From the very bottom of my heart and my soul, thank you so much. I will never forget this day. I will never forget the love that I felt and still feel. And to everybody who held a light for me, please know that I hold my light for you. Though I happened to be the one sitting on stage, I am but one small light in a sea of thousands. TOGETHER we can and will make a difference!”
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
See the full panel here: (candles from 33:00 to 35:11.)
Feature photo by Jared Padalecki.