Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to see Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA, for short), at Cornell University. For those of you who don’t know what TWLOHA is, allow me to explain: it’s a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for those struggling with suicide, addiction, self-injury, and depression. The organization exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery. TWLOHA started out as an effort to help a young woman, Renee Yohe, get treatment for addiction, self-injury, and depression.
Back in 2006, Tworkowski wrote a story about meeting Yohe, titled “To Write Love On Her Arms.” He began printing the title on the front of t-shirts, and printed the story on the inside. He began selling the shirts at concerts and even posted the story online. They’ve been able to connect with people in over 100 different countries, responding to more than 170,000 messages.
I discovered TWLOHA through a friend my freshman year of college. I checked out their website and after reading Jamie’s story, I cried. I realized I was reading my story. I had struggled (and continue to struggle) with many of the issues TWLOHA deals with. I have family members and friends who struggle with these issues. Even though I knew so many people who struggled with these things, I came to a realization: no one talked about them. These issues were pushed into the corner, the big elephant in the room. And because no one wanted to address these issues, they only became worse. I wanted to do something about it.
I worked diligently to get a university chapter of TWLOHA started up on my campus. I wanted to get people talking about these “taboo” subjects. TWLOHA-Ithaca College was one of the first fifteen UChapters in the country. Our first meeting had a huge turnout–over 50 people–and even though all of those members didn’t stay with us, I was astounded to see how many people really wanted to talk about these issues. TWLOHA-IC is my “baby.” Founding it at the end of my freshman year, I’ve watched it grow, thrive and succeed. Sure, our chapter has had its ups and downs, but seeing how far it has come makes me so proud. Our members give me hope and inspiration. Because of them, I believe that hope is real.
This year, we’ve had the most active members and e-board officers in TWLOHA-IC’s history. When we learned that Jamie was speaking Cornell University (a ten minute drive from IC), our chapter was thrilled. Most of our members attended that night, and as a group, we were determined to meet Jamie afterward. A chance to meet the guy who started this movement, who was brave enough to spark conversation and change? Um, you bet we were all over that opportunity.
It’s a funny thing, meeting a person who inspires you. Expectations are high, certainly, and there’s always a tiny fear of being disappointed. What if this person, warped by fame, isn’t all you expect him/her to be? The 19 of us waited patiently out in the lobby of Statler Hall, waiting to see if reality would live up to our expectations. And it definitely did. Jamie was so genuine, so real, so pure of heart. He was thrilled to meet all of us–and took the time to say hello to every single one of us, taking photos, signing autographs, and talking to us. I was so surprised, seeing that he really is as genuine as his message is. It’s refreshing to meet people like Jamie, people who are truly dedicated and devoted to what they do. That keeps me inspired.
You could tell that TWLOHA isn’t just a “business venture” to Jamie–it’s a movement. It’s a movement to inspire hearts and open minds. This organization isn’t just about “raising awareness;” it’s about creating and changing conversation. It’s about knowing that you’re loved and meant to be loved.
Have you ever met one of your idols? Have you been involved with something that inspires you? Tell me about it below
LeadHer™ Intern, Campus Calm
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