To Write Love On Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery. We spoke with Casey O’Neill on the road at Vans Warped Tour about the organization and their involvement with the musical youth while traveling.
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Sean Ritchie: Thanks for taking the time out to talk about this great cause. Give me a little in-depth on what the organization does? How does it operate?
To Write Love On Her Arms: I can start with our mission statement which is to present hope and finding help to those struggle with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. Coming to Warped Tour, we have two tents set up. We have one tent for merchandise and another for information. Selling t-shirts and wristbands are a big part of who we are as an organization, because our supporters look at this merchandise and really just a simple t-shirt can be the meaning between life and death for those who are struggling. We sell a lot of very hopeful merchandise. The t-shirt I have on right now says “you are enough.”
Every message, every inspirational quote we have on our t-shirts is something we believe in. We truly believe everyone coming up to our tent’s story is important. They deserve a chance at recovery and a chance to get the help. Luckily, we have a free-information part, information on every single city we go to that has the list of counseling centers, treatment facilities, as well as national hotline numbers. So, when people come up to our tent they walk away educated and walk away knowing that they can ask for that help and they can receive that help. We are trying to help facilitate that by giving them the information that they need.
SR: Absolutely amazing. A wonderful charity and a great cause to fight for. I see a lot of parallels with music, because in itself, music is kind of an escape from the real world. You can sit back, put on a track and dive into whatever mindset that artist was in composing. In a lot of ways, there’s a lot of depression relief through music. Talk to the similarities, or parallels, between TWLOHA is doing fighting depression and being on Warped Tour with the music side of things.
TWLOHA: I think it starts with the audience. Warped Tour brings a younger audience. It’s not fair to say we put our effort into teenagers, but we know that there’s statistics, research and trends in society with teenagers and young adults. It’s troubling times for them. We are still in a society where a lot of kids I talk to are told growing up, whether it be there parents or adults in their lives, that they need to shake it off, or what you’re doing is with wrong intentions. It’s troubling to hear that, because these kids really are struggling and it’s not just kids, its adults as well. They live in such a stigmatized world and by coming to our booth we help to educate them and help change. We let them know the struggles they are feeling are all very real. Now that you are aware of that this is what’s going on, you can come to us and we will give you those resources. You need that information to walk away with and know that it’s okay [to] sit in front of a counselor for the first time.
Music is really a big part of how we started in 2006. Our founder Jamie Tworkowski was good friends with Jon Foreman [of] the band “Switchfoot”. In 2006, “Switchfoot” was one of the hottest bands out there with their big singles “Dare You to Move” and “Meant to Live”. Jamie had one of our t-shirts on one night at their concert in South Florida and he asked Jon to wear it on stage. Jon wore it and explained to the crowd that my friend is trying to help another friend of his pay treatment.
Back then Myspace was a prevalent thing and that’s where the original story was posted. People walked away from that concert and went online and read this story about Renee — the original story about Renee in treatment. People started relating to that story and reading the story. They related with a friend, or a loved one. That’s really how the movement began just with a story on a Myspace page. I think music has that intricate role that people can connect with. We believe that music is a safe place. It’s a place where people can go to change the moment. Being in a crowd of people and being a part of a community of people who love and share that same kind of music is important. We are truly honored that Kevin invites us back to Warped Tour every summer. It’s such a unique part of Warped Tour that it’s not just music, they have another side. We are simply just a part of that and glad to be here.
SR: Amazing! That’s fantastic. To tie it a little bit into travel, how special is it to be able to travel across countries spreading this message and being Warped Tour?
TWLOHA: Honestly, it’s simply incredible! I really can’t say it enough times. Every day I wake up in a new city and I’ve never done anything really like this before in my life. I’ve been an East Coast kid, born and raised in Pennsylvania. Really the most I’ve seen is Florida and up and down the East Coast. I think the fact that TWLOHA trotting on and spreading their message of hope and help it’s incredible. I get to see new cities, cities I’ve always wanted to go to. When we have some down time at the end of the day or even on our off days, I like going to places I’ve never been to like Chicago and Milwaukee. I get to go California soon. I’ve never even been there. I think it’s just exciting to see those places and know that when we get to those places there is an audience waiting for us. An audience that may have never even heard of us. We get to help educate them and let them know that their not alone with their struggles.
SR: And potentially make that impact on someones life. So, lastly to wrap it up and looking forward a bit, what’s next on the agenda closing out Warped Tour? What follows that in the next couple of months?
TWLOHA: I think that what’s cool about us is that were not just on Warped Tour. The summer is a very busy time for us. Currently we’re in Orlando this weekend at a supporter conference. The supporter conference brings people together from all over the world. It’s a two-day conference where you get educated on what TWLOHA is. There’s meetings, there’s informational breakout sessions, there’s even music involved. That’s a really unique thing going on for us right now, outside of Warped Tour we do various summer festivals. We do Bonnaroo, Firefly, which are just a few that already happened. Throughout the year when its winter time, not summer festival time you can find us at community conferences and all of that information can be found on our website on the get involved page, as well as the connect page.