A Creative Vision and Loving Tribute

Ending up back where you started can feel like a step in the wrong direction, but returning to your roots is often just a different way of moving forward in life. Connor Parkhurst ’16 found himself back in his hometown of Peoria after experiencing a sudden loss, but this unexpected change in life eventually brought him a renewed opportunity to finish his education and discover the future that was waiting at home for him.

Growing up with more than 15 aunts and uncles meant that Parkhurst was encouraged from a young age to find his own identity amidst a very large family. He began seeing what his passions in life were through creativity and expression.  He said, “My family was always full of very creative and supportive people, but it was because of my cousin Michael that I fell in love with filmmaking.” Together, their passion for storytelling flourished throughout their adolescence and soon became a professional aspiration for Parkhurst.

When it was time to consider colleges, both cousins explored film school options, and Parkhurst enrolled at Southern Illinois University. However, his ambition wouldn’t let him stay put for long. After writing and directing a film that was voted best in class by his peers, Parkhurst took a gamble on himself and withdrew from school to chase his dreams in full force. “I thought of the filmmakers I loved, and they all had stories about dropping out of college,” he laughed, “but I truly did look at the industry and formulate a plan to use and build my skillset.”

Soon, he was on his way to the film industry capital: Los Angeles. He spent the next year expanding his skillset and sharing his west coast escapades with Michael. “I would always update him on what I was doing,” he recounted, “but he was battling difficult mental health issues that I was unaware of.” Sadly, these personal struggles resulted in Michael taking his own life. When Parkhurst received the heartbreaking news he decided to come home.

“I was completely lost and kept wondering what to do next,” Parkhurst said. He began to heal and find himself again after choosing to return to school. “I decided to finish my bachelor degree, and Bradley was the answer because it was a close comfort for me.”

The journey wasn’t easy as Parkhurst experienced moments of self-doubt, but he was re-assured and supported at Bradley. “I felt so lost, but the teachers at Bradley care,” he said.They saw what I wanted to do and helped shape who I am today.” More than just a degree, his time at Bradley paved the path to his next step forward.

“During my senior year I started my own company,” he said, “and the whole time I kept thinking of Michael and how I could keep his memory alive.” His cousin’s legacy took on new meaning when he named his new venture Hoop House Creative, after Michael’s volunteer work building garden spaces with Peoria’s Southside Mission.

Like the plants that thrive in these nurseries, Hoop House Creative provided fertile ground for Parkhurst’s passions to take root and blossom. The company provides photography and videography services with a penchant for rich visual storytelling. His determination created something that not only allowed him to live his dreams, but also bring Michael along for the ride as Hoop House continues to grow.       

Adam Morris