This blog post is part of the bi-weekly series highlighting the Music For Good charities and their spotlight artists (read others here). Subscribe to our blog (enter your email on the right) to get a new blog post every other week!
When James Chippendale, a wealthy and otherwise very healthy 31-year-old Dallas entrepreneur, got diagnosed with leukemia in 2000, he was dumbfounded. Like most people, he had little to no information about it. “I knew it was cancer and that’s about it,” James told us in a phone interview. “I didn’t know what the treatments were nor did I know my chances of survival.”
Once he knew more about it, James focused solely on finding the best doctors and a bone marrow donor who could save his life. “That was the only chance I had of survival. No drugs, no medicines, nothing else besides a donor could save me,” he said. And a donor he found — but it wasn’t easy. There was nothing for him in the United States so he had to go on the international registry, where they found that a man’s marrow 5,000 miles away in Germany was a perfect match (read the whole story in this moving article on New York Times). As of today, James is cancer free.
This experience prompted James to unite forces with fellow leukemia survivor, Mike Peters (of popular Welsh alternative rock band of the 1980s, The Alarm), to start the Love Hope Strength Foundation (LHS). LHS is a music-based charity whose goals are to reveal the ongoing success of cancer survivors, build a support network for cancer patients worldwide, fight for great research, fund and develop innovative music related outreach and awareness programs.
Over the last five years, they’ve added over 30.000 donors to the bone marrow donor registry that have resulted on over 575 matches for people around the globe.
We talked on the phone with James and Mike (who was in the middle of a sound check in Manchester, UK) about Love Hope Strength’s future, funding sources (like putting on crazy concerts in unexpected elevations worldwide), the power of music and more.
You just celebrated Love Hope Strength’s 5th anniversary this year. Where do you see the charity five years from now?
Mike: I suspect we’ll still be here, fighting the fight. Cancer is a very dangerous weapon to humanity. If James and I are still around in five years [laughter], we’ll just keep encouraging people to stay alive.
“The goal of LHS is not just about raising money, but it’s to tell stories, show others that people the likes of James and me can come back from cancer and do wonderful things.”
– Mike Peters, of The Alarm
James: In a less poetic way [laughter], the charity continues to grow every year by adding new countries. Just two weeks ago we launched Mexico, where we’re going to do bone marrow donor drives across the country. We get offers every day from different countries in the world. I hope we can add hundreds of thousands of donors so that people don’t have to wait months and worry that you’re not going to find a donor. It’s a big, big world and a big mission, you know, and we’re just trying to do one country at a time.
Many musicians today use the power of their music and fame to promote a cause. Some examples would be Jack Johnson, Zac Brown, Dave Matthews, Bono, and you Mike. Do you think this is trend, a fad that’s going away, or do you think the relationship between musicians and charities is here to stay?
Mike: I don’t think it’s a trend. I think musicians will always be involved in humanitarian causes. Music is such a natural expression of your feelings and of who you are as human being. Having something to say is the most important ingredient you need to become a successful artist.
“If you’ve got something to say, and it’s relevant and powerful, then you’re doing something right as a musician.”
– Mike Peters
James: I think it’s important to know the balance between supporting the cause and promoting the cause, and not hitting their fans over the head with it. Artists now are able to do it in a way that engages the fans instead of alienate them. I think we do that really well, Mike, in the sense that we stand back and stay true to who we are and what we do.
Mike: Yeah, when I started with my band The Alarm in 1981, we had high ideals to power people and change the world. As I got older, I realized that it’s okay to say those things but people want more specific examples, they want to know how they can engage in the circle. So then when we started LHS, we gave musicians a reason to talk about the charity on stage in a meaningful, positive way, without distracting fans from the music.
One of the cool things you guys do is you host first-ever concerts with big time musicians at some pretty unusual places, such as Mount Everest (twice), Mount Fuji, Empire State building and Machu Picchu in Peru. Tell us about it.
James: Back in 2007, Mike and I came up with this crazy idea that were going to climb Mount Everest, you know, just to celebrate our recovery from leukemia, kind of like “climbing back from cancer.” It was just going to be him and me celebrating life. But then we used our entrepreneur minds and decided that Mike was going to invite some of his buddies like Billy Duffy from The Cults, Slim Jim Phantom from Stray Cats, Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze, and have all of this power in the music world join us in the celebration. I invited cancer survivors and we all climbed the mountain to announce what we’re doing to the world. It really evolved from there. The experience of climbing back, being so far down, and leading a charge back up the mountains to help others be able to climb back became the theme of the charity.
We kicked off, actually, with a climb of the Empire State Building steps, 1,576 to be exact, in a concert at the observational deck. It worked as an announcement of the launch of LHS and our plans to climb Everest.
What’s the main goal of performing these amazing feats?
James: The goal is twofold. One goal is to create awareness about our charity. The other is to raise funds. On these hikes, people pay a pretty significant amount of money to come and join these adventures, meet and get to know these musicians. We’ve raised millions of dollars over the years through these events. Another cool outcome we get from these events is that the musicians themselves get an experience of a lifetime.
Some of the biggest musicians in the world come to us and say “I’ve played to millions and millions of people but this is probably one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.”
Why did LHS decide to participate in the Music For Good program?
James: It’s such a natural fit for us being a music-based charity and all. Another thing we learned throughout this process is that the power of music is just incredible!
“Music doesn’t know any border. It doesn’t know color, it doesn’t know race, it doesn’t know religion, it doesn’t know economic status. Whether you’re rich or poor, it’s music.”
– James Chippendale, Co-Founder of Love Hope Strength
That’s the message we’re trying to spread. I mean, we also don’t have any borders. We’re now in four countries around the world and we’re finding matches for people from dozens of countries. It’s not about a US-based cancer charity; it’s about a global community. I think music resonates across a global community. To be able to interact with thousands of people who are part of ReverbNation is amazing. These artists can align with us and be part of our family for years and years to come.
When musicians support us, they’re going to be able to see the results. They’ll see cancers centers that are being built, the donors that we have, the lives we save. That right there is the differentiating factor from anything else out there.
Mike: Yeah, and our events are not about giving money so much. They’re about encouraging people to get tested to be on the list to be a bone marrow donor with a simple cotton swab of the cheek; they’re about getting them excited to join the cause. So we’re very thankful to those who do participate!
James: We realized musicians and fans are giving us a tremendous gift in supporting us, so we wanted to give them that gift back by showing them how they are helping us.
WANT TO SUPPORT LOVE HOPE STRENGTH FOUNDATION? Click here to get involved!
To learn more about Love Hope Strength Foundation, please visit their website.
To buy music from The Alarm and help support Love Hope Strength, please visit their ReverbNation profile.