We think love is a huge part of the answer but it’s not the cheap/pink hearts/Valentine's Day love. We're talking about the kind of love that fights and believes and hopes and says the difficult thing and refuses to give up.
We hear the word love a hundred times a day but what does it mean and what does it look like? What does it mean to love someone who's struggling with something we don't understand? What does it mean to love ourselves? For the questions that come with the issues we talk about, there are usually no easy answers. So perhaps the best place to start is to be willing to meet people in the questions, to be willing to talk about things that are uncomfortable or foreign, to really know people and to allow ourselves to really be known by other people.
TWLOHA has certainly changed a lot of things for me. My life looks very different now compared to two or three years ago. There's been some amazing opportunities and there's also been a lot of learning and growing pains along the way. More than anything, it's been a privilege to feel like I get to bring my heart to work, I get to do something I believe in, and then to hear from people that this work we're doing is helping—to hear that lives are changing and people are talking about things for the first time, or getting help for the first time. I feel like if I won the lottery, I'd keep doing what I'm doing now and I know it's pretty rare to be able to say that.
I've been around the clothing business and the surf industry (working for Quicksilver and Hurley) and music my whole life. I also grew up with parents who care deeply for other people, so I think all of that got me started down this road.
In 2006 at the age of 26 I met a girl who was struggling with drug addiction, depression and self-injury. She was denied entry into a treatment center and spent the next five days with me and some of my friends. At the end of the five days, she entered treatment and I wrote a story called "To Write Love on Her Arms" and started selling t-shirts as a way to pay for her treatment. I made a MySpace page to give the story a home, and some friends in bands started wearing the shirts. We realized quickly that the story we were telling was one that represented a ton of people, that this was an opportunity to talk about things that people weren't talking about, and that we could also invest in treatment on a bigger scale. Over the last two and half years, we've become a non-profit, responded to roughly 90,000 messages from 40 different countries, and we've had the opportunity to bring a message of hope, help and community to people around the world–everything from rock and roll clubs in England to public schools in Australia to major media (NBC, CNN) in America. Today, we have the largest online audience of any non-profit on MySpace, and one of the most-read blogs as well.