When you think of Warped Tour or festivals in general, your mind automatically thinks of the bands (and if you’re like me, the fashion, too), but only a handful of people actually know that there are many organizations that support the tour and/or festival that you’re stoked to go to. One of my favorite non-profit organizations has been around since I was a teenager and definitely made a huge impact on my life growing up and to this day. If you’ve never heard of To Write Love On Her Arms, allow me to introduce you. TWLOHA is an incredible non-profit organization that is committed to providing people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide with support and help. They strive to educate, inspire, and directly invest into treatment and recovery. One way they carry out their mission to care for others is through their time at Warped Tour during in the summer.
This summer at Warped Tour, we had the opportunity to chat with TWLOHA Staff Member, Casey O’Neill who is Spreading Hope with To Write Love On Her Arms. He shared the heart behind To Write Love On Her Arms, why going out on Warped Tour was important, and even shared some stories he’s heard while on the road.
Cliché: How many years has To Write Love on Her Arms been on Vans Warped Tour?
Casey O’Neill: TWLOHA has been on Vans Warped Tour for 10 years now with its first summer being 2007!
Why do you believe that it’s important for TWLOHA to have such a presence in the touring music scene, especially at Warped Tour?
TWLOHA’s original story first began with the help of music in 2006. We find that this music scene needs a presence such as us. We’re seeing that the crowds every summer need an organization that they can come to be educated on mental health. We’d like to be that safe place where people can come talk to us and walk away with resources that will help guide them into getting help.
What did your hopes for this year’s Warped Tour look like?
My hope was that everyone who walked away from our tent knew that they’re not alone. I want them to leave Warped Tour with resources that will help guide them to getting help. Asking for help can feel impossible for some. My goal is to change that perception and instill hope into those I come in contact with.
Who are some of the bands you’ve partnered with this year that are on the tour?
Most of the bands we receive support from start out as friendships. They choose to wear TWLOHA merchandise on stage because they believe in our mission. The Summer Set is an example of a long running connection we’ve had, and we are excited to welcome them to the tour soon. We had the opportunity to live with Tonight Alive this summer who have been incredible supporters of what we’re doing every day on tour.
What has it been like to work with them?
It’s been a blast! Jess Bowen of The Summer Set came out to Warped to drum for 3OH!3 until The Summer Set arrived. The first time I ran into her, she was proudly wearing her new TWLOHA Orlando Pride tank that was recently printed in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy. It made me happy to see someone like Jess representing us just by simply wearing a tank top.
Your summer line had a variety of incredible apparel, including a tank and shirt with the words “People Need Other People” and is said to be made in hopes to start a conversation. What conversations have you heard during your time on Warped that have proved to show that People actually do Need Other People?
There have been so many conversations that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’ve heard countless stories of individuals celebrating anniversaries such as three years sober and even seven years self-injury free. These examples come mostly with details about a friend or a loved one guiding them to getting the help they needed. The connection people have with other people is indescribable. There’s such a power in showing another person that you love and care for them. That care can be the key to someone sitting across from a counselor for the first time.
There’s such a power in showing another person that you love and care for them. That care can be the key to someone sitting across from a counselor for the first time.
Are there any stories you can share about some of your followers and fans that have personally impacted you or the team collectively this year?
Personally, I’ve related with various individuals who come up to our booth at Warped Tour. I lost one of my best friends, Shane, to suicide six years ago. His death truly shook my world up. It took me down a difficult path until, with the help of my family, I decided to go to counseling. I’ve met so many people affected by suicide, which never gets easier to hear. I’m able to use my story of personal loss to relate with those suffering. My hope is that by sharing that, it will make those listening feel as if they’re not so alone.
What was the purpose behind the handwritten cards you had at your desk?
These are our response cards.One card says “10 years from now, I hope to:_____.”
That is our most popular response card that gets filled out. We asked those who stop by to write down their biggest hopes and dreams. We ask them to envision what their life will look like in 10 years.This card has to do with the fact that TWLOHA recently celebrated 10 years as an organization this past March. We simply began as a story told about Renee Yohe and now we’ve been able to provide hope and help to those struggling around the world since then. “My favorite TWLOHA memory” is the other response card we have for those who are continual supporters of the organization. Each card that is left behind at our table is remarkable to read. It’s easily one of my favorite parts of being on the road with TWLOHA.
We got to meet some of your awesome interns this summer. Tell us: how does your internship program work? How are interns chosen?
I fortunately had the opportunity to be an intern with TWLOHA in the Fall of 2015. There are three internship terms: fall, spring, and summer. These terms give six or seven people from various walks of life the opportunity to move to our headquarters in Melbourne, FL in order to learn what it’s like to work for a non-profit organization. As an intern, you live and work in the community with your fellow interns. It’s an amazing opportunity to make new connections in life that you will surely never forget. There is an application process that includes a video portion. The deadlines to apply are always made available on our website and social media pages.
The internship provides you a chance to work directly with staff members who operate unique functions of the organization. Also, you’re trained on how to reply to messages that come into our information account. These messages can be as simple as someone asking on how to get involved more with TWLOHA, but there are also messages that are heavy in nature since they’re supporters asking for our help. It’s our job as interns to reply to every message we receive with as much hope and help as possible. We ensure that there are appropriate resources sent their way so they can find help wherever they’re located in the world.
Lastly, coming out of the summer Warped Season, what does the rest of the year hold for TWLOHA?
Summer is definitely a busy time for us, but luckily we still have a ton of exciting events planned for the year. In early September, we recognized National Suicide Prevention Week with a new campaign that helps raise awareness on the topic of suicide prevention. Our founder, Jamie Tworkowski, speaks at various colleges and communities throughout the year, which is always a fun time for those interested in learning more about TWLOHA. All of these events can be found on our website at www.twloha.com/events.
Read more Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Spreading Hope with To Write Love On Her Arms: Photographed and Written by Imani Givertz