Marist Singers’ Love in the Afternoon Spotlights Mental Health Awareness
The Marist College Singers are currently hard at work as they prepare for their upcoming benefit concert, Love in the Afternoon. This year, all proceeds will be donated to “To Write Love on Her Arms”, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals struggling with mental illness, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. “To Write Love on Her Arms” exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery, according to their mission statement.
In 2006, “To Write Love on Her Arms” was born. The founder, Jamie Tworkowski, published a story on MySpace about a 19 year-old girl named Renee, who was struggling with mental illness, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. In an attempt to rehabilitate, the hospital would not accept her unless she performed a detox to get the drugs out of her system. Jamie and others spent five days with her, from sunrise to sunset, making sure that Renee would continue her detox in order to receive treatment, which would be covered from him selling T-shirts. The official story can be found on their official website.
“To Write Love on Her Arms” has grown tremendously since the publication of Renee’s story. According to their official website, in 2011, the non-profit organization received a one million dollar grant from the American Giving Awards, presented by Chase. Since 2006, they have “shipped merch to 98 countries, including 2,550 world suicide prevention day packs with 70,090 info cards going to 22 countries.”
Their message continues to be spread through the carefully selected pieces that will be performed by the Marist Singers this March, including “You Will Be Found” from the Tony Award winning musical, Dear Evan Hansen, “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman, “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw, to name a few.
When asked how the non-profit was selected, president of Marist Singers, Katie Kilcullen ‘19, discussed how “both the board and Sarah Williams had come to an understanding that mental health had become pretty prevalent within the Singers after Chamber Choir sang “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen for our Night on Broadway performance, so we were narrowing it down to a few charities having to do with that.” Kilcullen recalls when “Tom Vestuto (PR Chair), was the one who suggested “To Write Love on Her Arms” at the meeting and I practically screamed because that’s what I had been thinking.”
What makes this year’s Love in the Afternoon so unique is that it is so largely student driven and promoted. It is taking the students own personal mental health awareness to a new level of understanding and empathy. Kilcullen also explains that “the goal is really to start a mental health initiative within Singers and around campus through music. We have a social media campaign called #OpenArms through @maristmusic that people can follow for words of inspiration where people are asked what word they’d write on their arm. It’s been super powerful and impactful so far. Marcella Micillo, the Music Department intern, has been so awesome with the social media presence and we’re all working together to make this event more meaningful than it has been in the past.”
“Love in the Afternoon is a not just a show about love songs, or love. It's a show about passion and giving,” says Justin Camero, ‘20. “I can't think of any other way to show your emotions then getting on a stage and singing your heart out about a cause that means the world to you.” Camero is not alone in feeling inspired by the message of the organization.
“Mental Health affects so many people not only in our own Singers community, but across the Marist campus and greater community, and it was really important for us to pick a charity that people would be passionate about” says Kilcullen. “‘To Write Love on Her Arms’ was that charity. Everyone got behind it really quickly and it all just fell into place.”
The performances will take place on Saturday, March 3rd at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sun day, March 4th at 2:00pm. General admission tickets can be purchased for $10 and students and senior citizens can purchase tickets for $5. Tickets can be reserved by calling 845-575-3242. There will be a raffle and bake sale to help raise money, as well as an information table at the event so people can learn more about “To Write Love on Her Arms,” and the work that they do.