Denver’s Love Hope Strength has been on a mission to save lives one concert at a time since 2008. In methods both large and small, from hosting the highest concert on land on Mount Everest to popping up at various music festivals around the US, Love Hope Strength’s primary concern is matching willing bone marrow donors to ailing recipients. Jason Chavez, Director of Artist and Venue Relations has been a part of Love Hope Strengths’ mission for the last two years, coordinating spots for the non-profit on artists’ tours and at music venues, as well as overseeing the non-profit’s Get On The List bone marrow registration program. In advance of the nonprofit’s forthcoming fundraising festival The Alarm, going down on November 3 and 4, we sat down with Chavez to talk on his role in the nonprofit, his time in Denver’s music industry and how concerts connect donors to recipients.
303 Magazine: How did you get involved with Love Hope Strength?
Jason Chavez: I got involved because I used to be on the venue side of the music business — a talent buyer for Soda Jerk Presents. Bookings shows, I would usually coordinate Love Hope Strength’s presence at Summit Music Hall, the Marquis Theater and other venues. I was working a show where Love Hope Strength happened to be set up —talking to one of their representatives and he mentioned an opening that was in line with my experience and direction I wanted to take my career — to a non-profit, helping people and benefiting the community.
303: How did you find yourself getting involved in the music industry in Denver?
JC: I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do growing up but I started playing guitar when I was 13 years old, more seriously by 15 and while I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I knew I loved music and I figured I’d pursue that. I eventually moved to Denver from Seattle when I was 18 and I knew I wanted to go through the CU Music Business track. After I graduated, I got an internship with Soda Jerk Presents — my favorite promoter in town. Being a punk kid and metal head, they were booking the shows I wanted to see so I figured it was the company I wanted to work for too. The rest is history.
303: What about concerts creates an opportunity to connect with bone marrow donors?
JC: Concerts are excellent because we find that first and foremost they tend to skew younger in a lot of cases and a lot of our best registrants come from the 18 to 30-year-old population. Concert-goers also tend to be open-minded individuals who care about their communities. Music really brings people together in a powerful way just to enjoy the art in and of itself so, when you start to include non-profit organizations around that then people see it as a way to leverage their community. One of our founders is the lead singer of The Alarm (Mike Peters), and he was diagnosed with Leukemia in the ‘90s. Being intimately familiar with how terrible a disease it is and how blood disorders affect people, he became aware of the need for more bone marrow donors and that’s where the idea of Love Hope Strength came from.
303: Can you describe the process of getting on the list?
JC: Getting On The List is much easier than most people expect. First, we want to educate you on the bone marrow transplant process, which is mostly done through a stem cell transplant nowadays. It’s not as invasive and not as painful as it once was, so first and foremost education and awareness are keys to our success. Once someone is made aware of the process, and they decide it is something they want to do, we have a quick list of eligibility requirements and a general health check, and then we kind of beat people over the head with the different ways to potentially donate. We also want to make people aware of how rare it is to actually be a match to somebody as about one in 450 individuals we sign up will be a match.
303: What does your position in Love Hope Strength encompass?
JC: We are a fairly small staff but my main objective as Director of Artist and Venue Relations is to manage the Get On The List Program of where we set up, when we set up and coordinating that with our partners. A lot of times, that’s an artist saying we can go on tour with them. Once we get approvals, we need to go through the process of finding and confirming volunteers and communicating our needs not just for the tour, but to the venues involved in the process.
303: You guys recently set up shop at the inaugural Grandoozy, aside from aiding in the mission of Love Hope Strength, what does a festival of that magnitude add to Denver?
JC: For a festival like Grandoozy, I think it’s really cool that it’s being produced by people who have a lot of experience producing events of that caliber. Something that a lot of these festivals hit on the head is incorporating a non-profit component to them to give back to the community. If you’re going to come into a city and cause all these logistical issues, I think giving back is a good way to balance that and show your gratitude to the community. I think Grandoozy did a great job of that during their first year, and I hope to see more of that.
303: What do you think holds people back from becoming a donor?
JC: First of all, bone marrow transplants used to be an awful process for both the recipient and the donor. Another challenge is that TV makes it still look like a really awful process and that doesn’t do us any favors. 80 percent of the time now it’s done through stem cells, but all in all the pain is basically just a prick from a needle and a little discomfort from the injections boosting your stem cell count. It’s not nearly what it was. While you may feel a little soreness, the trade off is that you can save a life.
Love Hope Strength’s The Alarm Festival will be taking place November 3 and 4 at the Oriental Theatre and the Streets of London. Full schedule and ticketing information can be found here
[Update 11/9/18] Article incorrectly stated that Love Hope Strength’s began in 2003 when in fact it was 2008.