TWLOHA celebrates 10 years of hope

To Write Love on Her Arms has been an important organization and moral guide for me for about eight and a half years now. The group celebrated its 10 year anniversary this year at its annual Heavy and Light event on April 2, at the House of Blues in Orlando. Here’s a bit about the event for my future self:

Short explanations for anyone needing more information – an FYI, if you will:

TWLOHA is a nonprofit movement dedicated for 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.

It started with a story: “Our founder, Jamie Tworkowski, didn’t set out to start a nonprofit organization. All he wanted to do was help a friend and tell her story. When Jamie met Renee Yohe, she was struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. He wrote about the five days he spent with her before she entered a treatment center, and he sold T-shirts to help cover the cost. When she entered treatment, he posted the story on MySpace to give it a home. The name of the story was ‘To Write Love on Her Arms.’ Read the original story

TWLOHA believes we were created to love and be loved. That people need other people. That our stories are important. That better days are ahead. That hope and help are real.

On March 30, 2006, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot wore the first TWLOHA t-shirt on stage. Heavy and Light began in 2007 as “an evening of songs, conversation, and hope,” held in response to the life and death of TWLOHA friend Casey Calvert, a member of the band Hawthorne Heights. Heavy and Light is not a benefit show, but an attempt to move people and let them know it’s OK to be honest and to ask for help. The evening includes speakers, poets, musicians, trained counselors, and most importantly, love and community.

This year’s Heavy and Light – and TWLOHA’s birthday

twloha10 event poster

This year’s Heavy and Light included musicians Jon Foreman, Matt Wertz, Renee Yohe of Bearcat, The Summer Set – and poets Sierra Demulder and Tonya Ingram. There was also speaking by three counselors and Founder Jamie Tworkowski.

Rachael, Stephanie and I attended the event together. It was really nice spending time with two friends who have been with me for so long. I also got to spend some time with Aunt Vicki and Uncle Matt, as well as Rachel.

There were many tears and many smiles.

We hugged strangers. We laughed together. We cried. We dreamed of hope.

Together, we experienced a night I will never forget, and will probably try to experience again next year.

I wish Katie could have been there. She was missed.

I felt super cool because TWLOHA was even more active on social media during this time

They retweeted these from my account:

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Overall…it was a wonderful weekend. And I am thankful for the people in my life and the endless opportunities I have to share love.

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