--Just provide some background on yourself, Syrentha Savio Endowment (SSE) and the Shirts For A Cure project.
I started the Shirts for a Cure parent organization, The Syrentha Savio Endowment (SSE), in February of 2002 – in the wake of my wife (Syrentha Savio) passing. I felt that I could not let the world forget who she was so I started what I thought would be a small fund that might be able to help a couple of women and let it go. I organized a couple charity dinners, an auction and gathered a team to walk in the National Race for the Cure in DC – very safe and a bit generic. Things went as well as I had hoped; we rose a bit of money and memorialized Syrentha. But, it didn’t feel like “me”.
In the summer of 2002 I traveled with Jade Tree to Louisville for Krazy Fest. Along for the ride was Dan Yemin whom I have known for years. Dan and I spent most of the weekend talking about lose and rebuilding – things both of us were going through. The topic eventfully moved to SSE and my future plans and we talked about some goals I had and what I thought might happen. During a pause n the conversation I turned and asked him to re-form Kid Dynamite for a show to raise money. Without blinking he said yes.
Six months later Kid Dynamite played the first of what has become the SSE Benefit Concert Series and SSE started to feel like it could make a real difference. After the KD show, things started to snowball and here we are three years later with more then $200,000 raised and more then $95,000 granted nationally.
--Who came up with the idea to create a project such as Shirts For A Cure?
The Shirts for a Cure Project stemmed from a dinner conversation I had with a long time friend in March of 2004. We thought SSE could raise money by selling old hardcore shirts – we would ask band members from all over the country to donate whatever shirts they no longer wore and we would auction them off on eBay. Though it was a great idea it was a nightmare logistically. A couple of weeks passed and the idea stuck with me – I thought we had something here and there must be a way to get it to work. I remember reading about a shirt Thursday designed for the Sean McGrath Fund and how well that was received. I thought with the right legwork and enough pressure – we could do the same thing but on a much larger scale.
I started to approach bands I know personally – with Darkest Hour being the first one to sign on. I can’t say enough about DH – through my close personal relationship with Mike Schleibaum (DH guitarist) – they have become one of SSE’s biggest supporters. There is nothing they wouldn’t do for us – the same goes for the Thrice guys and recently My Chemical Romance and the guys a Syndicate.
--What made you decide to help fund the expenses of breast cancer and not another illness or disease?
Syrentha was diagnosed with stage 2 Breast Cancer in the spring of 1999. We fought it valiantly for three years but in the end cancer had whittled her down to nothing and in the winter of 2002 she lost her battle.
When I first started SSE I wanted to make a difference in the fight Syrentha had started – the fight against Breast Cancer. I feel that if we concentrate on one disease we can make a real difference in someone’s life – were as if we were trying to solve all the problems in the world – we would never make any headway. This way – a donation to $25,000 can make a real difference.
--How expensive can breast cancer treatment get for women?
At the time Syrentha was going through treatment she was working for AOL and had wonderful health insurance. Month after month we would get statements for 10’s of thousands of dollars and never have to pay a dime. As the fight progressed and we started to enter trial after trial, the statements started to grow – but we still were never asked to pay a dime. Having high quality health insurance was something that enabled us to continue living our lives without worrying about making ends meet. But – not everyone is as lucky as us. I feel that with SSE and SFAC we can make a real difference in many women’s lives and help make life not such a struggle.
--It's great to see established artists coming together to fight for a cause, how did you obtain these artists and get them involved with the project?
When I find a band I want to start working with – the first step is to see if I have any personal connections with them. Since I have been going to shows for nearly 20 years, I have plenty of contacts. If I can reach out to a band on a person basis things go a lot smoother where as if I need to go through their management – things are a bit more of a hassle. But, then again, that is what a management team is paid for – to filter things for the band.
Most of the time, once a band sees we are a legitimate organization and see what we are doing with the money raised – they jump on board – no questions asked. There have been a couple of instances where I had to wait a significant period of time before a band would say yes – but, so far, I have not had anyone turn us down.
Once the band agrees to participate we move to the design stage. Most of the time the band asks us to design three or four shirts that they will choose from. I have been very lucky with attracting a very talented group of designers – the bands sometimes like the designs so much that they end up buying one or two of the extra design, using them as tour shirts. Bane and Fall Out Boy come to mind.
After the design has been agreed upon I send everything off to my printers. Once again, we use the people whom we trust and whom we came up with. Geoff D’Agostino and TDT Screen Printing from dirty Jersey has been printing our shirts for years – even before we started the Shirts Project. Like most of the people we work with – they are huge supports of SSE and work with us on pricing.
Once the shirts are printed they are shipped to Colorado where Suburban Home takes over. They have handled our distribution since our re-launch in November with things running much smoother then I could have imaged. If all goes well, the shirt is in your hands within a week of ordering.
--What are some other beneficial projects and ideas you guys have come up with in the past and how successful have they been?
At the moment we are trying to concentrate on Shirts for a Cure and growing the roster. Our goal is to have SFAC be one of the first places people look to when they are hunting the web to purchase a bands shirt. With the right promotion, the right bands and enough traffic – there is not stopping what we can do
In late April of this year we introduced the official SSE silicon wristband. Similar to the Lance Armstrong bands – our bands are embossed with the slogan “FightStrongLiveLong SSE” in a marble swirl of Black and Pink. It’s an easy way for people to support us and sport an awesome look wristband.
One other project of note is the on going SSE Benefit Concert Series. Thus far was have held shows in Philly (Kid Dynamite, April ’03 and The Bouncing Souls, April ‘05), West Hollywood (Thrice, Dec. ’03), Washington D.C. (Darkest Hour, July ’04) and Orange County (Thrice, Sept ’04). We have been able to reach nearly 8,000 kids and have raised over $50,000 in just five concerts. We plan to hold a least two a year with the next one to be held in NYC this August.
How many people are involved with SSE and what is the organizations ultimate goal?
Well – as with many organizations like SSE – everything is done with a core group of volunteers. I depend on my crew to help out at events such as the Thrice charity walk (Sept ’04), the Kid Dynamite weekend (April ’03) and on the Warped Tour this summer. That said – I do everything else. I run the office, brainstorm all the ideas, figure out all of the logistics of our events, do the accounting, order all the shirts, find designers, sign bands on for SFAC – the list could go on and on. It’s something that has totally eclipsed my life – but I love it. Knowing that I am positively affecting a woman’s life keeps me going and makes up for the fact that this is a totally unpaid venture.
Any last words, thank yous, shout outs, more information etc?
None of this would be possible without the support of all the bands that have volunteered their time and talent, in particular Thrice, Darkest Hour, The Bouncing Souls and Circa Survive. A very special thanks goes out to My Chemical Romance for donating not just one design – but three - and who is hauling our merch around the country this summer on Warped.
Lastly I would like to thank everyone who has bought a shirt, attended one of our shows or who has just taken the time to navigate our website. You are the real heroes and you are making a real difference in someone’s life.