Hope. Healing. Music.
Those are the words displayed on the Do It For The Love Foundation’s website.
Musician and co-founder Michael Franti said, “I don’t know if music can change the world overnight but I know that music can help someone make it through a difficult night.”
Sara Agah, other co-founder of the Do It For The Love Foundation is an emergency room nurse who sees firsthand what life-threatening illnesses do to not only patients but also their loved ones.
Franti and Agah bridged their two passions to create a project that provides the power of music to the terminally ill.
It was in spring of 2013 when Steve and Hope Dezember contacted Franti asking for Steve’s wish of attending a Michael Franti & Spearhead concert be granted. Steve is living with advances stages of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
The wish was granted and during the show Franti invited the couple onto the stage. Steve asked Hope to lift him out of his wheelchair while on the stage, even though his disease had progressed to the point where he was barely able to move.
Per the foundation’s website, “Wrapped in each other’s arms, they danced on stage in front of 20,000 fellow music fans. There was not a dry eye in the house.”
As a Michael Franti and Spearhead fan for a decade, I’ve attended numerous concerts. He always puts on an energetic, positive, uplifting show. Even those who attended shows who weren’t fans of his music beforehand admitted that the energy put into the music spreads and they said they could feel the passion.
The most recent Franti show I attended was in New Hampshire in July.
I was granted a media pass and could wander around to take photos throughout the show in any of the areas. I’m as socially awkward as they come, and not a fan of crowds but I bucked up and walked to the very front.
Once I got to the front, I received a smile and a 'hello' from a small child who after acknowledging me returned to staring at who I later found out to be her mother.
Just a few feet away were her parents, dancing together like there was no tomorrow.
After the song ended, The man then carried his wife back over to the first row of seats so she could rest. She was sweaty and had a huge smile on her face, as well as a bandana on her head, which covered the little hair she had. I asked if I could sit down next to her, and she said, “Absolutely!”
Her husband then took her daughter up close to the stage and they danced.
I learned that the woman was there through the Do It For The Love Foundation and was terminally ill. It’s certainly not my style to pry into personal matters of strangers while at a concert, so I didn’t probe any further as far as that was concerned.
She told me she was having a fantastic time and she was so glad she was able to make it to the show, even though she knew she’d be tired the next day.
She was 30. She said the show would rank as one of the highlights of her life. She smiled at me. A smile I’ll never forget.
Soon after, her husband and daughter returned and her husband picked her up and carried her closer to the stage so he could help her dance some more.
That night I saw in that woman's eyes the power music had. The hope it gave her, even when she knew the inevitable. The joy in her child's face to see her ill mother moving and happy. And I saw the love a man had for the women in his life.
Hope. Healing. Music.
“Through Do It For The Love we want to provide the opportunity for healing to take place, for families to bond, care providers to get a welcomed break, and for lifelong memories to be made — all through the experience of live music,” said Agah.
Per the foundation’s website, “The Do It For The Love Foundation’s goal is simple: Grant live concert music wishes to people living with life-threatening illnesses, children with severe challenges and wounded veterans. We believe that in granting live concert music wishes, we're helping those who most need to feel supported, happy and hopeful. Music helps us feel alive.”
The Do It For The Love Foundation grants wishes for people to attend concerts that are not limited to Michael Franti and Spearhead. In October 2014 a wish was granted for an 8-year-old named Lola. Lola and her family made the trip from their hometown in California to Everett, Washington so that Lola — who was diagnosed with leukemia in April 2014 — could see her favorite artist, Christina Perri, perform.
Lola and her family shared their story with foundation ambassadors that met them before the show. They then had a special meet and greet with Christina Perri.
When asked in an interview how being a founder of the foundation has changed Franti and Agah, Franti said, “Recently, my son was diagnosed with a life-threatening kidney disease and my girlfriend Sara’s mother started chemo. I never would have imagined when starting the foundation to help theses families, that I would become one of these families. It goes to show you it can happen to anyone. I feel in some ways that meeting these families has prepared me for what I’m going through right now with my family.”
“The Do It For The Love Foundation has re-inspired hope and happiness within me,” said Agah. “I see that we can create so much happiness in the lives of the people we love with the smallest actions. The foundation has brought some incredible people into my life, who have brought me a lot of strength in challenging times. I’m proud of the foundation and every single person who has been apart of it and I’m looking forward to meeting so many more amazing people.”
While the love between Steve and Hope Dezember sparked the creation of the foundation, Franti said he had written a song titled “Do It For The Love.”
“The song is about giving back without expectation of anything in return,” said Franti. “That’s really what the goal of the Do It For The Love Foundation is. We want to reach as many people as we can with the healing power of music and create opportunities for artists to connect with their fans.”
Franti said concerts for those living with life-threatening illnesses, sick children, and wounded veterans is important for a number of reasons. “Music opens windows to the soul. It allows whatever it is in your heart to come out – sadness, joy, pain, elation, freedom - it allows it to all come out,” he said. “When people are facing life-threatening illnesses life is precious. We want to create opportunities for them to have beautiful experiences with the ones they love… help them to create lasting memories.”
Additionally Franti said, “It provides a break for the caretakers and at the same time hopefully draws attention to illnesses that aren’t well known and need some light shined on them.”
Agah said, “Working in the ER, I see firsthand how background music affects the patient and all the people providing care. I see people everyday use music to soothe pain or bring joy into their lives. Being at a live concert — being there and feeling the energy of everyone around you — can be a spiritual and healing experience. For a brief moment, you all have the same thing in common and you’re unified in experience and vibration.”
The Do It For The Love Foundation’s website has a nomination form where anyone can submit a wish grant application — one can even nominate themselves.
Donations are also accepted and greatly appreciated. They can be made online or by mail.
I know that the money I’ve donated to the foundation has helped a number of folks attend shows when they otherwise might not have been able to do so. I read the stories of those who have passed since attending their wish grant concert, and while it makes me emotional, I know deep down that they had an evening where they could let loose and enjoy themselves.
I have no idea where the family I met at the Michael Franti & Spearhead show in New Hampshire is now. I have no clue how the mother is doing, or how the family is holding up.
I do hope they had the time of their lives at that show.
For those wishing to nominate an ill friend, family member, or yourself, visit doitforthelove.org and click the Wish Grant link. Those who would like to donate can click the Get Involved link.
I did it. With all the negativity in the world these days, in order to keep my sanity there are certain things that can be done to make days brighter for those we share the world with.
Do it for the love.