Over the years, I've had the unique opportunity to travel on the Vans Warped Tour with the Dear Jack Foundation, a non-profit founded by musician Andrew McMahon of Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate. Andrew is a cancer survivor who recorded his battle in the documentary, Dear Jack. It was his story that inspired me to get involved with advocacy for young adult cancer research. With the serious lack of funding in that age demographic, I felt it was important to shed some light on the topic.
The Vans Warped Tour has a great program for non-profits that allows them to set up in their own section, sell merchandise, pass out literature, and talk to the thousands of kids attending the music festival. During my four summers on the tour, I made it a point to talk to as many people as possible, educating them about the importance of young adult cancer research.
Everyone who I talked to had a story, whether they were a survivor or lost someone to cancer. I listened to hundreds of heart-breaking stories. Hearing them became difficult for me after a while, since I was not prepared for that kind of interaction. Not knowing what to say, I would sometimes just respond with, "I am so sorry for your loss." Even though I've lost loved ones to cancer, I never really talked about it with anyone. As the days passed, I got better at listening and began to open up to strangers about my story, why I was touring, and what was next in my life -- although I had no idea at the time.
If I had been told when I started college (in 2004) that I would become a social media coordinator for a non-profit in Washington, DC, I would have asked, "What's social media?" I wouldn't have believed I'd end up working at a non-profit. My experiences on the road led me to this very place, advocating for another cause. I believe it's important for our generation to engage in their community and inspire others to be involved. It's our responsibility. With today's technology, no one has an excuse not to get involved. You never know whose life you're going to change, or who you'll inspire to do great things.