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Non-profit founder visits X

By molly boes
On April 11, 2012

The founder of To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), Jamie Tworkowski spoke in front of a room full of Xavier students on April 3. TWLOHA is a non-profit organization

that has reached out to more than 170,000 people in 100

different countries. The speech was sponsored by SAC and Active Minds. During this speech, Tworkowski told the story of how TWLOHA was founded and how it expanded

from a small MySpace project into a full blown non-profit

organization. After a brief introduction of quick facts about the organization, including that since its founding

in 2006 it has sent out more than 170,000 messages to people seeking help and has raised more than $1 million towards treatment and recovery of depression and addiction, Tworkowski invited his friend Steve McMorran from the band Satellite to perform. Following McMorran's performance, Tworkowski took the stage again to discuss how he came to found the organization. Tworkowski grew up in Florida with the dream of becoming a surf industry sales representative. He dropped out of college in order

to pursue a job for Quicksilver and later Hurley.

While attending a conference in January 2006, it was announced that one of the representatives of Hurley had committed suicide. Tworkowski brought forth the idea that they do something as a company to help with suicide prevention, but his idea was denied. Tworkowski later went to a music video shooting where he saw the director, Joaquin Phoenix, walking around the set with notes

covering his arms, which gave him the idea later for his organization. Then, in the spring of 2006, Tworkowski was introduced to Renee, a young woman struggling

with addiction, drugs, depression and self-harm, by a mutual friend David. He and his friends offered to take her to treatment, but she asked for one more night, promising

to go in the morning. That night, Renee took a razor to her

arm and wrote a message. The next morning, they took

Renee to the clinic, but because of the drugs in her system, the clinic could not admit her; they did not have adequate facilities for detox. Tworkowski and David spent the next five days with Renee helping her through detox by talking with

her and taking her to concerts. Right before taking her back to treatment, Tworkowski asked if he could share her story, and she loved the idea. Originally, Tworkowski wrote

up the story and e-mailed it to friends and family where he received a positive response. He became inspired to sell t-shirts to raise money for Renee's treatment. He created a MySpace page for the story. He then went to a Switchfoot concert where one of the band members wore the shirt

throughout the concert. Following the concert, the MySpace page exploded with messages and requests. "It was all a great surprise," Tworkowski said. "We hadn't expected

that to happen." They started doing research and began acting as a bridge to help people receive help. "We began to realize that maybe we had more than the opportunity

to help only Renee," Tworkowski said. For the first year, TWLOHA worked under another established non-profit in order to understand how the system works. The organization currently has 12 employees, a house full of interns and is based out of Florida. After his speech, Tworkowski invited McMorran and Michael Meier, the Assessment and Research Director of McGrath Health and Wellness Center, onto the stage to have an open forum.

"I'm not up here to impress you with this story of TWLOHA.

The goal and thing I love is this chance to press pause, redirect the lights and say that everyone here is equal and living a unique story," Tworkowski said. "My hope is that you have some people to say it matters, that you matter."


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