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Reaching out by rocking out to ‘Shout Hope’

Taylor Bouknight, 17, organizes benefit concert

Posted: February 27, 2010 10:41 p.m.
Updated: February 28, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Taylor Bouknight, 17, displays the poster she designed with her sister Shannon for Saturday's Shout Hope benefit concert.

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Drawing on visible parts of the body may be a hip form of expression for most teenagers today - but for Valencia resident Taylor Bouknight, 17, the act of writing the word "love" on the arm has a deeper meaning than meets the eye.

The William S. Hart High School junior will aim to send the message of love loud and clear when a benefit concert - "Shout Hope" - will be held 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 6, at Valencia United Methodist Church.

The music event will raise funds for the nonprofit movement, To Write Love on Her Arms, an on-line-based help network founded out of Cocoa Beach, Fla., dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicidal thoughts.

"I really wanted to find a fun and inspirational way to let people know about the deep meaning behind this network," Bouknight said. "The concert is about spreading love and compassion and making people aware that every life matters and we can make a difference."

The movement began in 2006 in response to an at-risk teen named Renee, who was found spiraling down a path of self-destructive behaviors.

After being turned away from a treatment center for being "too great a risk," a small group of youth advocates took Renee into private care for five days before she entered rehabilitation.

Nurturing her damaged spirit with therapy of a musical persuasion, the group exposed the teen to a myriad of uplifting activities, including rock concerts and indie-folk band performances.

The mission quickly became to replace Renee's loneliness with love.

It was decided then and there that for every self-inflicted wound Renee had on her arms, the group would help to heal the scars by providing one act of love at a time.

"They wanted to ‘write love on her arm' instead," Bouknight said. "That is the meaning behind the message. The most important thing was to let Renee know that she mattered and that she was loved. More people need to know that they have a place to turn and that someone cares."

Soon after Renee successfully entered rehab, the movement was formed and the group began to relay the messages of hope and healing through their Web site as well as other technology-based networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace.

Across the United States, rock concerts and special performances by well-known bands began to form in support of the cause for hope.

The movement spread to Australia and the United Kingdom, also gaining support from celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Joaquin Phoenix and Liv Tyler, who encourage people to get involved though a series of blog endorsements on the TWLOHA Web site.

A popular Facebook trend even took flight in asking people to write the word "love" on an arm on a given day.

But Bouknight knows that if actions speak louder than words, then the meaning behind the movement needed to be told.

"It's great that there are people who have heard of ‘Write Love on Her Arm' Day. But without knowing what it's really connected to, they won't be able to see how powerful the meaning is behind it," Bouknight said. "The more people are informed about the need for reaching out to those in pain, the more we can do to make a positive change in someone's life."

Bouknight recalled the moment that the message hit home for her.

"I was at a Christian Rock festival and saw these T-shirts for sale that said ‘Love Is the Movement.' I just thought they were cute at first," Bouknight said. "I bought the shirt but then someone told me it actually meant something much more real."

Upon further exploration, Bouknight discovered that shirt sales would directly benefit the movement's mission to provide treatment and rehabilitation to those in need.

Bouknight found this message close to her heart in more ways than one.

"It hit me on a personal level because my family and I have known people who have battled with depression and suicide,"
Bouknight said. "It really moved me to think that there is hope for those who feel alone and it made me want to get more involved and do my part to help."

Bouknight's will to make a change was also felt by her mother, Leslie.

"Taylor is very inspiring to me," Leslie Bouknight said. "I stand back in amazement just watching her get out there and do something she believes in. She's not afraid to follow her dreams and I am honored to support her as she makes those dreams a reality."

In 2008, Bouknight became an active member of the organization's Street Team, a platform for people who want to help promote the cause in their own parts of the world.

Through engaging in various outreach tasks and activities, Street Team members like Bouknight can extend a helping hand to those who may be looking for one to hold.

But the team member knows that a little rock 'n' roll can go a long way to making a message heard.

"I wanted to hold a fundraiser that combined my interest in reaching out with my love for music," Bouknight said.

A musician in her own right, Bouknight didn't hesitate to contact close friends who share her passion for playing with heart.

"I just thought about people I knew who would want to help and everyone I asked was totally ready to rock with it," Bouknight said.
Led by Lee Lowe of Lowe's Music in Newhall, the band Flaverbox will have fans raising the roof to a rocking good time.

Guests will also be entertained by Untwined - a band from Valencia High School.

Without taking a beat, the crowd will get the chance to stomp around to the pop and skaw stylings of Zebra TV, a band comprising of some of Bouknight's fellow Hart High students.

Guests will get a chance to cool their heels while enjoying refreshments such as hot dogs and nachos, included in the ticket price of $15.

Sponsored by Valencia United Methodist Church, the event is a fully chaperoned affair.

Throughout the evening, Bouknight will speak on the importance of the cause, informing the crowd of teens about the real dangers that exist among youth at risk for isolation, loneliness and depression.

"The statistics are real," Bouknight said. "There are 19 million people in America who live with depression. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among 18-24-year-olds with depression. This kind of event can teach people to listen to friends and family who may need their help. If we are aware, then we have the chance to give the love that's needed."

Proceeds from the event will directly benefit TWLOHA's initiative to partner with the Kristin Brooks Hope Center to launch IMAlive, the first live online crisis network with a full staff of certified and trained crisis intervention specialists.

In lieu of the growing need for crisis intervention among youth and adults, the network hopes to allow crisis responders to reach millions of people in need through a custom-built instant messaging service.

"Younger generations today are mainly communicating through technology, so this would be an amazing way to reach them and let them know that someone is there to connect," Bouknight said.

The IMAlive network will provide access to online intervention around the clock and hopes to extend the outreach with the completed project this fall.

Since its humble beginnings, the movement's messages of hope and love have reached more than 100,000 cries for help from people of all ages across 40 different countries.

But Bouknight knows that there is no time like the present to bring the messages home.

"Hope is real and rescue is possible," Bouknight said. "We are put on this earth to love and be loved. We need to spread the love to whoever needs it and is looking for it. I hope that this concert shows people that they have the power to make that connection. The smallest act of reaching out could save a life, and it reminds us that every life matters."

Tickets to the upcoming fundraiser are by reservation only. No door sales will be issued. To purchase tickets, contact Taylor Bouknight at (661)-373-6748 or e-mail For more information on TWLOHA and how to donate or become a member visit


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