To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit 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 also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.
One person is all it takes to make a difference. In 2006, Jamie Tworkowski wanted to tell the story of his friend Renee and her struggle with depression, drug addiction and self-injury. She could not afford treatment and Jamie, along with other friends, decided to step in and help. The phrase To Write Love on Her Arms was in reference to Renee carving “F**k Up” on her arm. The telling of her story went viral and helped launch a movement and an organization that continues to grow and make a difference in so many people’s lives. The organization has provided over $1.5 million to 73 unique organizations and counseling practices.
I’ve seen this organization at several concerts that I have attended over the last several years and I always seem to cross paths on my journey with someone wearing one of their shirts. After reading up on the organization and being incredibly moved by their story and what they’re doing, I reached out to them in hopes of speaking with someone at one of their upcoming events. Well, my wish was granted recently as I was able to speak with Chad Moses at Rock on the Range which took place over May 15-17 I Columbus, Ohio.
Hey Chad! I really do appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today. It looks like you’re a one man show here at Rock on the Range. For starters, I’m sure your role here at this tent is more than just being a vendor like most of the other people at the other tents.
Hey man! Well, first off my name is Chad Moses and I work in music and events at To Write Love on Her Arms and what that entails is any event that incorporates music, I help plan it and odds are staff it. There are currently two of us, me and my buddy Jason; he does a lot of Warped Tour stuff. Our role is to find creative ways to use live music as a platform to talk about things that we don’t often talk about such as depression, addiction, self injury, suicide and beyond that. We don’t just talk about those issues, but what does it look like to look for help or what does it look like to ask for help? What does it look like to find community in the midst of some difficult times?
So, at the end of a day here at Rock on the Range, how do you gauge it as being successful? How do you measure that?
It varies; sometimes we have no idea of the impact of our presence until weeks, months and sometimes even years later. The shirts, for us, it’s a means to an end because they’re our primary means of fundraising. It helps us to keep the lights on and that helps us to further our programs and that helps us to invest into other avenues for treatment and recovery. So, we’ve been around for nine years now and we’ve been able to give over $1.5 million to other places. So, that’s a piece of it, but really at festivals like this, it’s an excuse for a conversation. Most people won’t walk up if you don’t have something to offer them, so they’ll often walk up because a design will catch their eye or the name To Write Love on Her Arms will peak their curiosity. We’ve seen some beautiful things unfold; we were at Welcome to Rockville a few weeks back for our third year. At that festival, a young woman walked up to me and said ‘hey, last year when I walked up to your booth, I didn’t plan on waking up the next morning. You guys were there to talk to me and that made all the difference.’ You know, that’s a story that we had no idea was playing out until a year later. It’s moments like that where you get goosebumps and reminds you of why we’re here. We’re not here to sell shirts; we’re here because we expect to see you here. We’re here because 70,000 other people decided to share this space. We know that at least for a handful of those 70,000, they could use someone to come along side them, so that’s why we’re here.
Yeah, that was definitely a goosebump moment for me; that has to make it all worthwhile for you.
Oh it does and then we get the honor or seeing these stories play out year after year. This is our second year at Rock on the Range, we’ve done Welcome to Rockville for three years, Warped Tour for nine years, after this I’m going to Sasquatch (Music Festival) in Washington and that’ll be our fifth year there. As we keep coming back to these places, I can’t remember every name, but I remember faces, I remember tattoos, I remember piercings and it sets off a bell in my head. It’s an instant point of connection and although I haven’t seen you in a year, I remember a bit of your story. I can ask how you’re doing, how your daughter’s doing, how your dad is doing and we get to see these stories unfold. It’s beautiful man; it’s a time lapse and you get to see people’s lives really kind of stumble upon grace and new beginnings. I only get these in short bits, but those stories enable me to continue to do my job.
What an inspiration it has to be for you to have someone come up and share a story like that with you.
It definitely keeps me grounded, for sure.
Do you guys still get a lot of the artists to work with you?
Oh yeah, it’s definitely happened a lot over the years. You could make the case that this entire project wouldn’t exist if not for our friends in Switchfoot who decided to wear our shirt as they toured and that was nine years ago. We’ve had friends in bands like Anberlin, friends in bands like Paramore, Underoath, Oh Sleeper; the list goes on and on. Most recently and probably most applicable to the audience here, our friends in Nothing More are currently doing a tour for their song “Jenny”, which deals a lot with mental illness and especially the stigma around it. Those guys were really very gracious in offering their stage to talk about some really things. The tour that they’re currently on is going to benefit financially a number of mental health organizations. We often forget that the dudes writing the songs and the dudes playing the guitars, and the gals too, are not immune to any of these issues. You know, some beautiful things happen when we have the opportunity to be honest with the things that we’re walking through. So, that’s what life’s made up of, these little bits of touching points through the years whether it’s someone across the booth from me or someone that’s on a stage because at the end of the day, we’re all people. We’re all driven by our fears and our dreams and the places in between.
I think that people sometimes forget that those men and women up on stage are people too, just like us and they can suffer and may be suffering and we don’t really know it.
Not only do they suffer too, but they feel joy too and that joy is going to come in community. We say it all the time, people need other people. I’d say that some of the darker things that we hear from these artists and even dancers or painters often times is a way to make sense of the pain that they’re dealing with. If we could just get the time to ask each other how are you doing, no really, how are you doing? That follow up question man, that’s where life really comes into play. There’s far more that will connect us than ever separate us.
Chad, this has definitely been a highlight of my Rock on the Range this year. I’ve been a big fan of this organization for years and I’m finally glad that I was able to get the time to talk to you. Is there anything that you’d like to wrap this up with?
To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit organization and we exist to present hope and find help for anyone struggling with depression, addiction, self injury or suicide. Initially, this started to help our friend tell her story and we are a response to people responding to that story. We’re now so much more than our one friend Renee and her attempt to find help. We’re out there to be a bridge to connect anyone who’s looking for help. So, that includes you the interviewer, that includes you the listener, that includes you the reader that if you were walking through anything that you feel like you could use help with, that help exists. If you don’t know who to task, feel free to visit our website www.twloha.com. You can write us an email and we respond to each and every one that we receive because you’re never alone in anything that you’re going through.
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