Jamie Tworkowski is the founder of the non-profit To Write Love On Her Arms.
With no expectations of anything to come, one man helping out a friend going through some rough times has turned into one amazing non-profit organization for helping out troubled youth. Jamie Tworkowski is the founder of non-profit organization To Write Love On Her Arms, which helps people dealing with addiction, depression, self injury and suicide, as well as other issues, find the courage and the resources to get the help they need. Starting in 2006, Tworkowski was faced with a situation where a friend needed a safe and comforting place to be before leaving for a treatment center. Along with a couple of friends, he provided a warm and loving environment for Renee Yohe, showing her that hope and happiness was a possibility. By creating a Myspace page to tell Renee’s story, titled “To Write Love On Her Arms,” as well as selling T-shirts in order to pay for Renee’s treatment, Jamie started a movement. “We never intended to make a charity, non-profit or any type of movement. We started as an attempt to help a friend and really just tell a story,” says Tworkowski. The page became very popular, and more and more kids starting sharing stories and asking where they could find hope. With motivation to make a difference and the intention to help troubled youth in a sincere way, To Write Love On Her Arms was created.
In six years, TWLOHA has responded to over 170,000 messages to people in over 100 different countries, helping to encourage people dealing with issues to find help and peace. TWLOHA continues to help people and communities by spreading the word through events held at universities and concerts, as well as social networking. Artists from groups like Switchfoot, Anberlin, Thrice and Bayside have joined in the movement, as well as many others. “In the last few years, music has changed in the way that artists are saying it is OK be honest and to feel the way you are feeling, and that you are not alone. We feel that these messages relate very closely to the message that we try to spread, and it is comforting to have music present in the organization,” Tworkowski says.
TWLOHA has been putting on a concert in Orlando, Fla. for a couple of years now, and after receiving an award for one million dollars from the Chase Bank American Giving Awards, they are hitting the road and doing a cross-country tour. The Heavy and Light Tour is not your typical music tour, but a more intimate experience. “We really invite the artists to move people and try to speak to the crowd. We also have a couple speakers and some spoken-word poetry. There’s really no down time, and the night really flows from beginning to end. We also have everyone who attends the show leave with a list of resources to find any kind of help they are looking for,” says Tworkowski. Heavy and Light is hitting Salt Lake City this Friday,Feb. 1 at The Complex featuring the likes of Jon Foreman (Switchfoot), Aaron Gillespie (The Almost) and spoken-word poet Anis Mojgani.
The Heavy and Light tour is by no means a benefit show, as TWLOHA employees are not therapists. “We want to move people, “ says Tworkowski. “The goal is not to make money, but rather to let people know it’s OK to be honest and to get the help they need with whatever issues they are dealing with.” Tworkowski, who struggles with depression of his own, knows how important it is to have personal outlets and people to turn to when times get tough. “It’s one thing to talk about community and talk about getting help, and it’s another thing to do it. I’ve had to take some of our own advice and get together with good friends who really know me, who I am really honest with, to help me get through the issues that I am struggling with. Surfing is also something I really enjoy,” he says. From starting out alone, to now having 12 full-time employees and four to six interns, Tworkowski seems very grateful for the help he has acquired over the years. “Not only does it help us accomplish more and make my life a little bit easier, but I think, more than anything, it feels healthier. Naturally, a lot of the stories we read and hear are really intense and painful, so it helps that it does not just fall on one person, but rather it falls on our team. When someone reads something really heavy, they are able to share it with the people around them and maybe get some advice on how to respond to that,” he says. With the first cross-country tour underway as well as keeping up with speeches at campuses and other group sessions, To Write Love On Her Arms is spreading the word one day at a time and helping out one person at a time. When it all comes down to it, getting the message out is what it is all about. “The biggest satisfaction comes when someone tells me they would not be here without this organization. I also see the flipside of that when people tell me about loved ones they have lost to suicide or addiction, so that reminds us what is at stake as well. Both of those things really keep us going,” says Tworkowski.
As far as the future goes, TWLOHA is also taking it one day at a time. “It has been a lot of really hard work, and right now, this is just a dream come true for us. We are really just trying to live in the present and make the shows great every night. We’ll definitely continue to be active at college campuses, online and definitely in the realm of music, but for now, we are just soaking it in,” says Tworkowski. To find out more about To Write Love On Her Arms, you can check out their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you are in the Salt Lake City area this Friday, Feb. 1, then be sure to check out the Heavy and Light Tour, or check to see it in a city near you. If nothing else, take in some inspiring words and get out and live life to the fullest, because everyone deserves just that!