MEB staffer Austin Gordon recently got the chance to talk to Jake Luhrs from the fantastic non-profit organization Heart Support about what they do, their message, and how they plan to provide hope for all of those who need it.
MEB: Thanks for spending some time to talk to me Jake. Tell me about Heart Support and how it came to be.
Jake: Of course. I started Heart Support about three years ago. Basically over the years of being a touring musician, I’ve heard many stories from kids as to how my lyrics had affected them in a positive way. Helping them overcome addictions like heroin, alcohol and other substances. Helping them from cutting, or helping them with past struggles of depression, divorce, self-harm and things like that, so one night on tour I asked God and was thinking what could I do, to do more for Him and more for these fans of August Burns Red. I felt led to start a website, this website was a place for kids to open up about their issues and be able to talk openly about them with others who suffer or struggle with the same issue. Where they could ask questions to me and the team of people I have along with [me], helping others to not feel alone, judged or ashamed for their struggle. Also a place to talk about victories in their lives! Dreams they want to achieve, goals to accomplish, things they are proud of and experiences where they saw goodness come in their lives through overcoming their struggle. So I made a list of all the things I wanted the site to have and gave it to a friend of mine to build for me. That is where it all started.
What were some of the things that you faced in your life that made you want to put together this incredible organization?
Well my parents got a divorce when I was really young, [and] a close relative of mine was addicted to heroin for a few years which was really difficult for me. I ended up living in some pretty crappy areas and neighborhoods having to grow up relatively quickly and having to be put in some pretty tough positions. I used to struggle a lot with pornography and have had a lot of experience with abandonment which led me to a lot of dead ends, drinking out of frustration and loneliness, having sex with a lot of women in order to try and fill the hole in my heart, and wanting to commit suicide when I was 19-20 years old – which ultimately led me to Jesus Christ.
I wasn’t born religious and I’m not religious but have a deep, intimate relationship with God and through this relationship He has healed me of a lot of my past and continues to do so, and with that being said, He was able to use my past suffering and pain as a way to give back to the community and people and poured the desire to help others in my heart. That is why I started Heart Support.
What are some of the services that Heart Support offers in order to connect with those that need help?
We have a Q&A section where a kid can ask any question they want and do so anonymously if they’d like. This is great as many questions are asked that a lot of people feel uncomfortable asking anywhere else. We have the “tell us your story” section where kids can tell their story, whether that’s them getting through something difficult or discussing currently their issues, we ask that they give a title and picture and submit it to Heart Support for public posting. We have the support wall where kids can post current, present issues and others can come and support them by commenting encouraging words, or perhaps share a similar story, others can post prayers – things of this nature and just be open and get encouragement from the community. We have a “challenges” section, which is a list of things a lot of the community members struggle with. Depression, suicide, self-harm, sexual abuse, porn, etc. We have tons of information, books, references and resources along with stats and facts on these particular issues where kids can look them up and study for themselves to better understand what they are dealing with and ways to seek professional help, and/or information to shed light on the issue at heart. Those are just a few things we have to offer the community.
I’ve been going to Warped Tour for six years now, and I’ve always noticed the abundance of non-profit organizations that use this tour as a great medium for connecting with kids and vice versa. Given that fact, is there an opportunity for more tours to use this same manner of approachability and flexibility with these organizations in order to reach more of those in need?
Yes, we want to sponsor tours around the states where Heart Support could bring a table out on the tour to promote Heart Support community and shed awareness but also for us to have a team talk to the kids at shows and let them know they aren’t alone. To do interviews with more bands as that is something fun we like to do for the community, and to also encourage the bands that are on that particular tour. We don’t just want the kids at the shows, we want the whole thing.
Tell me in detail about “Road Stories” and what that’s about.
Road Stories is a chance for musicians to openly talk about what it’s like to be a touring musician, but also to talk about things they are struggling with, or ways they have been able to stay strong on the road. Being a touring musician isn’t as easy as everyone thinks, and a party isn’t a party if you do it every night. Too often bands get stuck in the rut of partying or passing the time by taking advantage of the risky things in life. So to get insight on what that musician’s life is like out on the road and how they keep themselves balanced and healthy is interesting. So Road Stories is just that, along with encouraging words of hope to the community.
Who are some of the ambassadors and people behind Heart Support?
We have quite a lot of musicians who have helped support by doing interviews, wearing HS gear on their stages, and doing Twitter takeovers and submitting blogs/video blogs to the site. Beau Bokan from Blessthefall is really a big-time investor in the kids at Heart Support. He’s given us quite a few blogs, wears our gear and truly cares about the kids. We’ve had Austin Carlile from Of Mice & Men, Mattie Montgomery from For Today, Jeremy [McKinnon] from A Day to Remember, Mattie Mullins from Memphis May Fire and tons more who have done interviews with us. Our friends in We Came As Romans have also recently been huge supporters, so it’s really nice to see so many people wanting to get involved in what we are doing.
Are there other non-profit organizations that are similar to yours that you have partnered up with in order to make it easier for kids to reach out and be heard?
We haven’t really reached out to non-profits like ours, but instead reaching out to non-profits that are beneficial to the community we have here. XXX-Church is one of those organizations that deals with fighting against pornography and shedding light as to how destructive pornography can be to a person. We are friends with To Write Love On Her Arms, who deal with self-harm and have a huge message of hope. We have writers who we believe are great writers that write on similar issues that Heart Support speaks on, and are always looking for organizations that have good information for the kids who are in need of help.
What are your goals with Heart Support ultimately? Where are you trying to take this organization?
Ultimately, I want kids to know they aren’t alone. I want kids to find healing and professional help and encouragement. I want not only to be of aid for these kids but aid for bands and supporting them mentally and help encourage them to overcome their issues as well. I want to take Heart Support on many tours across the US, and I want to show these people love and support. I want to host events, festivals, tours, and be a big impact in the music industry. I want to show the love of God as well through this action. Just by living my faith rather than just speaking about it.
Thanks for joining us on Mind Equals Blown Jake, anything you would like to close this interview with?
Well thank you for taking interest in what I’m doing outside of August Burns Red. It is a deep passion of mine and I’m glad to be able to do something like Heart Support. I will say that HS is for everyone. Does not matter the color of your skin, who you are in love with, what you believe in, or what shape you are in. We all struggle with things, and we are all broken in some way. We are here for you, because we believe in you. God Bless.
Big thanks to Jake and Heart Support for doing this interview with us. If you are in need of help in any way, Heart Support is there to help.