WILKES-BARRE — When To Write Love on Her Arms was started ten years ago, Founder Jamie Tworkowski’s goal was to help one person turn away from addictive and self-destructive behavior. As the organization’s message spread through methods like MySpace (this was 2006, after all), it was able to affect a growing number of people looking for a reason to hope. One of TWLOHA’s largest proponents? Retail chain Hot Topic and the underground music scene that’s so often painted as a nihilistic, depressing and dangerous community for young people to become a part of.
“I really love the irony … Hot Topic is not a place that’s known as being super hopeful, so I love that our shirts found a home there and we were really embraced by that audience,” Tworkowski said. “I think that’s a group that’s often times very sensitive, they feel things deeply and so I think there’s a lot of common ground.”
TWLOHA shirts also found homes on the backs of musicians like Switchfoot guitarist/vocalist Jon Foreman (the first person to wear a TWLOHA shirt, according to Tworkowski), members of the band Anberlin and Bayside guitarist/vocalist Anthony Raneri. F.M. Kirby Center Executive Director Will Beekman’s first exposure to the non-profit came at a 2007 Bayside concert, and he’s been a fan of the organization’s work ever since.
“I looked it up after the concert and that’s when I found out about this organization that had started just a year prior to that,” Beekman said. “I’ve been just kind of following along since. When we had the opportunity to bring him in I wanted to jump all over it.”
Tworkowski’s 7 p.m. April 18 speech at Wilkes-Barre’s F.M. Kirby Center is free (tickets are available at the Kirby Center box office) because Beekman thinks it’s important to make TWLOHA’s message accessible. That message — and the story behind it — was given two more platforms in 2015 when a film based on the TWLOHA story was released by Sony Pictures and a book by Tworkowski chronicling the events landed on the New York Times Bestsellers list.
“Those are both things that I don’t think I even could’ve dreamed up,” Tworkowski said. “I certainly never thought there would be a movie in which somebody plays me … there were a lot of people that had a lot to do with the film, but the book was even more personal for me. The book was really mine, it was me writing and my story. To end up on that list was a huge surprise, certainly a huge honor … part of it is the hope that it continues to help more people find those stories.”
As a speaker, Tworkowski brings those stories to life. He began speaking publicly about the organization’s mission shortly after the initial MySpace post that started TWLOHA, and after he became comfortable doing it, he took the message on the road to communities around the country. According to the non-profit founder, his hope is that the people he meets are encouraged to seek help if they need it. On April 18, those seeking help are welcome at downtown Wilkes-Barre’s F.M. Kirby Center.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts