Some BYU students threw an annual party for a man they didn’t know: They never imagined what it would become

Mar 26, 2024, 1:12 PM | Updated: 4:41 pm

A group of BYU students never guessed that a cross-stitch they bought from Deseret Industries for apartment décor would connect them with total strangers.

Brigham Tingey was one of those students.

“I had a few friends from high school that were going to school at BYU and we decided to all room together,” Tingey said. “We wanted to be the party house, so we figured we needed more than white walls to kind of set the vibe and we were also broke, so our décor options were somewhat limited.”

Wanting to decorate their new apartment, the roommates set off to the D.I.

“We were over in just like the area where they have like the frames, paintings, and whatnot and found this and we’re kind of like, ‘Who on earth would buy someone else’s baby announcement?'” Tingey said. “And we decided that we definitely were those types of people. If anyone was going to do it, it was us. And it’s probably the best $2.50 we’ve ever spent.”

The cross stitch BYU students purchased at Deseret Industries. (Photo: Angela Bricker)

The cross stitch, featuring the name, “Ty Christopher – March 1, 1991, six pounds, ten and three-quarter ounces” – hung on the students’ wall throughout the school year and quickly became an inside joke.

“It was our wifi password for a while. Just ‘tychristopher’ all lowercase,” Tingey said.

As March 1, approached, the students had another idea involving the now beloved cross-stitch.

“We realized like, we would be remiss if we did not celebrate Ty’s birthday. We had to do something kind of special,” Tingey said. “And at this point, we had several friends that were in on that joke, but we had quite a few who were not.”

The students threw a big birthday party for their “friend Ty Christopher” who many of the attendees believed was a real friend of theirs.

“I think we probably had between 30 and 35 people-ish there. But none of them knew Ty,” Tingey said. “I would say well over half were not aware that it was a joke.”

The students had no idea what had started.

“That solidified the tradition,” Tingey said.

As the roommates got older and moved out – they continued the tradition of throwing an annual party for Ty Christopher – alternating who would host.

“In more recent years, we’ve done like a white elephant gift exchange around Christmas and whoever ends up with the cross stitch frame is responsible for hosting the next birthday party,” Tingey said.

At one year’s party, they even did a Kahoot or survey where attendees answered made-up trivia questions about Ty Christopher’s life.

“But some of [the questions] were just the trivia that we should know, like ‘how much did Ty weigh when he was born?’ Everyone, of course, got that question right,” Tingey joked. “And then we got into his aspirations, all the goals, you know, things that we had made up in our head that Ty would probably be the type of person who would want to be an astronaut.”

The inside joke took a step further as they decided they should try to find the real Ty Christopher. They used their amateur film-making skills to make a movie about their efforts to find the unknown man.

“We were just like employing all of the cyberstalking skills we had ever developed up to this point, trying to find this guy, and we came up empty,” Tingey said.

A wanted sign for Ty Christopher created by some of the students. (Photo: Angela Bricker)

No social media for Ty Christopher.

The only other lead they had was the name written on the back of the cross stitch: Jill – who apparently had made it as a gift. They found Jill on social media – but she hadn’t been active on her account in years, and they couldn’t message her since they weren’t Facebook friends.

“My brother-in-law Jackson…he got really into the idea. He’s like, ‘I’m going to be the guy who finds Ty Christopher,” Tingey said.

Tingey sent him Jill’s Facebook profile to see if his brother-in-law could do anything with it.

Then, fortune struck.

“Lo and behold, as he looks on the page, he has a mutual friend with this lady and that was so suddenly the case is cracked back open,” Tingey said.

The mutual friend was able to get in contact with Jill and connect Tingey and his friends with the woman.

“I think she was a little bit, uh, caught off guard at first,” Tingey said. “And then after kind of sharing the story, she was laughing on the phone. She’s like, ‘This is awesome. I’d love to help you get connected.’”

Jill told them the real last name they were looking for was Nelson, but that the family had moved and she hadn’t seen them since approximately 1991.

“They hadn’t been in contact for like the last 30 years,” Tingey said.

“But then a day or two later, Jill calls me back and is like, ‘Hey, I found Cheryl. We had a great conversation. We were able to kind of reconnect. Here’s her phone number. She’s eager to hear from you,'” Tingey said.

Tingey was able to connect with Ty Christopher’s mother, Cheryl, and then the birthday boy himself.

Left to Right: Brigham Tingey, Amanda Beirdneau, and Angela Bricker talk to KSL TV. (Eliza Pace, KSL TV)

“It’s funny because he was like these people, Ty’s family are either gonna think we are super creepy or they are gonna think this is so funny and like we just thought it was hilarious,” Ty’s sister, Angela Bricker, said.

“My mom immediately called me, and she’s like, Oh my gosh, you have to hear it. The funniest thing happened to your brother,'” Amanda Beirdneau, Ty’s sister said. “And then she called all of us siblings.”

“That was the best reaction we could have hoped for. We were worried that, you know, the alternative would be like a restraining order and we’d be asked to never contact them again,” Tingey said.

They had found Ty Christopher.

“On the phone with Ty and I was like, ‘Hey, is there any chance you would want to come and attend this, uh,  party in your honor?”

The invitation to a movie premiere celebrating “Ty Christopher”. (Photo: Angela Bricker)

Ty agreed to be the guest of honor at his birthday party and a black “Ty” themed movie premiere.

“The majority of people there were, had no idea that there was going to be a surprise of any sort,” Tingey said.

Tingey purposefully had Ty Christopher show up a little bit late to make a grand entrance on the red carpet.

“I was expecting immediately, the applause, the uproar. But most were just kind of like, ‘Why are you clapping? Who is this guy?’ Had no idea. I mean, they’d never seen a picture of him. They had no idea who this person is and I think it slowly happened in waves as people were making the connection,” Tingey said.

Then they introduced their guest of honor.

“We’re like, ‘Ty, why don’t you introduce yourself?’ And everyone freaked out,” Tingey said.

“Ty felt like a celebrity. Like everyone’s like, ‘Can we take a picture with you?'” Beirdneau said.

“Everybody wanted to know the real-life story of Ty Christopher,” Bricker said.

All three agreed it was an amazing connection, all thanks to a cross stitch.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better wrap-up to the story,” Tingey said.

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Some BYU students threw an annual party for a man they didn’t know: They never imagined what it would become