Jamie and Renee - TWLOHA

November 20, 2009
According to the National Institute of Mental Health 18 million people in the United States suffer from depression. Two-thirds of people who suffer from depression never seek treatment and untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in teenagers in America, and it is estimated that 20% of all teenagers in America will suffer from depression at some point before they reach adulthood.

Teenage depression is a serious problem that has been either ignored or simply brushed under the rug for far too long. This is why Jamie Tworkowski started a non-profit organization called “To Write Love On Her Arms”. The non-profit started to gain national recognition when their signature t-shirts became available at the world renown Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach earlier this year, but Jamie and his organization did not become true pop-culture icons until early in October when he was nominated for a “Woodie Award”.

The Woodie awards are an annual award show aimed towards college students that honors the best musical artists of the year. The guest list this year includes Zooey Deshanel, Asher Roth, and the band members from Death Cab for Cutie. All though Tworkowski is not a musical artist he was nominated for the “Good Woodie”, an award for the artists whose commitment to a social cause has effected the greatest change this year. He won the award, beating out some big name celebrities including John legend and Alicia Keys.
From the beginning TWLOHA has been closely associated with the surf and skate industry thanks to their connection with the popular clothing brand Hurley. Tworkowski was working as a Hurley representative before he started this organization, and they have supported him ever since. “Bob Hurley was super understanding and super supportive at a time where there were people who thought I was crazy,” says Tworkowski.

In this past year To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) has exploded onto the pop-culture scene as one of the biggest charitable causes in America. What makes this particular cause so unique is in the way that it targets high school and college aged kids. Reese Butler from the National Hopeline Network told NBC that the success of TWLOHA comes from their use of the internet as a resource. He says, “There may be no other way to reach these young people.”

TWLOHA has moved beyond just the online world, however. The group also reaches out to young people at rock concerts, conventions, and college campuses. Bands like Switchfoot and Anberlin started wearing the TWLOHA signature t-shirts on stage to help raise awareness, and since then numerous bands have followed suit. Tworkowski started speaking at rock concerts, shortly thereafter, telling the story behind the TWLOHA. It is a story that he feels really resonates with his audience.

The story he tells is about a young girl named Renee Yohe. When Tworkowski met Renee she had fresh cocaine in her system and open wounds on her arms from where she would cut herself. When he tried to take her to a rehab center they would not accept her because she was too much of a risk. So for five days Tworkowski and his friends held their very own rehab center just for her. They had five days of rock music, cigarettes, and showing one young girl that she was loved more than she could ever know. Five days of telling her that she was a beautiful princess, and that she was part of a much bigger story- a redemption story.

After the week was over Tworkowski wrote a short story about his experience with Renee and titled it “To Write Love On Her Arms” in remembrance of the scars that disfigured her arms. He posted the story on MySpace and he started printing his slogan on t-shirts to raise money for her treatment. He never expected thousands of young adults to find the story and respond to it with their own stories. The response was so tremendous that an online community was born out of it. A community based on providing love and support for people all over the world going through the same struggles that Renee had.

Soon Renee’s story hit YouTube and became even better known. Millions of teenagers and young adults were able to watch her talk about what she had gone through. She became an inspiration to people all over the world. With Renee’s story becoming so popular on the internet more and more people wanted to by the t-shirts. Tworkoski did not want to try to compete with other non-profits already helping teenagers with depression, addiction, and suicidal thoughts so he decided to donate the money from the t-shirts to the National Hopeline Network, and various other organizations.

TWLOHA has become a nationwide phenomenon on college campuses. There is even an annual event called “To Write Love On Her Arms Day”. On this day millions of teenagers, college students, and young adults write the word love on their forearms with pens or markers and leave it there all day. They do this to raise awareness for the organization and to show support for people who may be struggling with depression and addiction.
Renee Yohe has now been sober for over three years, and her story has inspired millions of people all over the world to seek the help they need to overcome their struggles. Renee and Jamie Tworkoski have become the face of a new and powerful wave of socially conscious young adults. It is a generation that has learned to harness the immense potential of the internet to make a big difference in a positive way. The trend they started has lead to the start of other online communities for good causes such as Invisible Children and We Are Overlooked. These organizations have locked arms with TWLOHA and together they are going to change to the world for the better.

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JjustMary said...
Jan. 1, 2012 at 2:20 pm
I love this. Thank you.
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