“Just scrub the insides of your cheeks like you’re brushing your teeth for a good twenty seconds,” said a smiling volunteer, handing out cotton swabs to attendees of the recent Underground Music Showcase.
That volunteer was working for the Love, Hope, Strength Foundation, a nonprofit that works to get people on the international
Love, Hope, Strength was co-founded in 2007 by Mike Peters, lead singer for the Welsh alt-rock band the Alarm. A two-time cancer survivor, Peters knows well the importance of finding donors for those suffering from leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and various immune-system disorders. The charity, which is headquartered in Denver, has a single goal: to save lives by getting healthy people on the
The process to get on the registry is simple and quick. Interested individuals just need to sign a couple of forms and swab the inside of their cheeks. The collected cells are sent off to a lab; if approved, the potential donor is put on the registry for life.
If there is a match, the donor will be notified, and Love, Hope, Strength will work with the recipient’s hospital to make sure that the donation process (which involves needles and blood but is not nearly as painful as you might think) goes smoothly.
Denver resident Whitley Teslow was volunteering at a stage at South by Southwest in 2014 when he signed up. “I wanted to do it for the longest time,” Teslow says. “I had seen them at various concerts.”
By November of that year, Teslow found himself in San Diego, getting a full physical to make sure he was clear to donate to a potential match. “It’s a very, very easy process,” he says.
The nonprofit does do some fundraising (proceeds are used for supplies,
“That’s our unique pitch,” says Katie Poppert, LHS vice-president of programs. “We don’t ask for money. We’re asking for cells.”
And the organization does just that at “pretty much every music event in Colorado,” says Poppert, noting that LHS has a residency at thirteen different Denver-area venues, which allows the group to set up donation and information tables at concerts throughout the year. But no single place has had a bigger impact for the foundation than Red Rocks Amphitheatre. “Red Rocks is literally the most lifesaving venue on the planet,” Poppert says.
Love, Hope, Strength has been setting up at Red Rocks shows for the past five years, and in that time, it has signed up thousands of donors and found more than 250 lifesaving matches. By season’s end, there will have been a Love, Hope, Strength booth at 82 shows this year. LHS even gets some time on stage during the Film on the Rocks series, when a spokesperson talks briefly about the organization and a PSA plays before the main event. On an average night at Red Rocks, about 150 people sign up.
The venue has been so crucial to the success of Love, Hope, Strength that the group’s annual major fundraiser has been moved there from Vail. The event, called Red
According to LHS tour manager Rob Rushing, festivals are extremely important to the cause because they draw major crowds. At Bonnaroo this year, 10,051 attendees were added to the registry. But the charity has a deep connection to Denver and to Colorado’s music scene, and festivals held here play a central role in its campaign.
“UMS is run by some of Love, Hope, Strength’s earliest supporters, and...we’re proud to attend every year,” says Rushing. “Riot Fest is run by a cancer survivor, and they go out of their way to ensure LHS amazing placement at Denver and Chicago shows.
Interestingly, the decision to target music venues and festivals did not come about solely because Peters is a musician. As Poppert explains, “One of the reasons this has worked out so well is because young, healthy people go to music venues. That is the exact demographic that we need; the ideal age range is 18 to 27 for getting people signed up for the registry.”
Young, healthy people frequent
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Love, Hope, Strength is so dedicated to its musical roots that it has even opened a venue in Denver. The LHS Lounge, as it has been dubbed, helps the organization do some fundraising while also providing musical entertainment.
“Once a month, the LHS Lounge gives local artists and some of our supporting national acts the opportunity to help us fundraise in a small, intimate setting,” says Poppert. “The Lounge allows fans, cancer
The Lounge opened in
Poppert says at this point, the organization has become such a part of the music scene here that it’s more common to find people who have signed up than those who haven’t.
“A kid walked by me at Red Rocks last summer, and I asked if he was on the registry yet,” says Poppert. “He said, ‘I love music, I live in Colorado. How could I not be on the registry?’”