Group cues anthem for lifePublished 10:39am Friday, April 13, 2012
Last year, amid news of multiple suicides in the Austin area, Shelley LeTendre came to a resolution.
“I just said, ‘I need to do something,’” LeTendre said.
Months later, her suicide prevention organization Desperate Tears is about to take part in its first major activity. The group will collect proceeds from a Seventh Day Slumber show at the Paramount Theatre Wednesday, April 18. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 6:30 p.m.
Before Desperate Tears officially started, LeTendre was raising money by covering distance. She raised $4,500 during a half-marathon last December in Las Vegas that she ran barefoot. The names of people she knew who had been affected by suicide were written on her legs to reflect how close the issue is to her. An avid runner and friend motivated her to do it.
“Last year a friend of mine took his life,” LeTendre said. “He was a positive role model in my life.”
Her friend’s loss was a shock to LeTendre and others. It was one of nine suicides LeTendre had heard of taking place around the time, and one of the three she knew personally.
She started by doing some research, and realized that there were few options for someone grappling with suicide or those related to someone who is.
“They have support groups for people with alcohol, anxiety and depression,” she said. But crisis centers don’t take anyone younger than 18, and the thought of getting police involved may turn people who need help away from seeking it via hotline.
LeTendre can empathize with those she’s trying to help. She struggled through a period where she cried often and just wanted out, she said.
“Our goal is to help people before they get to that point,” she said.
She set her sights on creating an organization where people who were dealing with similar problems could listen to and support one another. Runs, walks and concerts were all ways to unite people in a cause.
“When a community works together, a lot more can get done,” she said. “Our motto is, ‘when hearts and arts come together, miracles happen.’”
Around the time LeTendre was considering what to call her organization, Steve Turner helped connect her to a Seventh Day Slumber show. Turner had previously worked security at the LifeLight music festival in South Dakota when he saw the band play.
At the concert, frontman Joseph Rojas told the tale of his $400-a-day cocaine habit and his life without a father figure. He attempted a cocaine-fueled suicide before he found salvation and changed his life.
Turner connected on a personal level, since he had himself come from a broken home and faced problems with alcohol earlier in his life. The audience seemed to share his sentiment. Out of the 20,000 people there, Turner said there wasn’t a dry eye.
He looked into bringing the band to Austin last year, but said it never came together.
“It was kind of a godsend that it waited,” he said. This year, the opportunity came to partner LeTendre’s efforts with his own. Because of his story, Rojas’ band was a good fit for a concert benefiting suicide prevention, he added.
“You wouldn’t believe the people who struggle in life,” Turner said. “This isn’t just for kids who think they have it bad. This is for adults, too, youth ministers and parents.”
“We want everybody to come, just because it can be a life-changing concert,” she said. “[Rojas] is planting seeds in other people to help them. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
While Seventh Day Slumber is a Christian rock back, the concert is geared toward a general audience, she said, adding that sometimes those who aren’t Christian are the ones having the trouble.
Turner said the band has two new singles they will play Wednesday night. Manic Drive and Ilia, two other Christian rock bands, will open the show. Following the performance, Seventh Day Slumber will hold a meet and greet where people can get autographs from the band.
“That’s kind of why they wanted to play the smaller venue,” Turner said.
The band has released five full-length albums and received numerous Christian rock accolades, including a DOVE nomination for Best Christian Rock Album of 2004. Their record sales are around 300,000, Turner said.
LeTendre said ticket sales have not been as high as she hoped so far, but she is more concerned about getting the message out.
“We’re not all about raising money,” she said. “We just want to change lives.”
The concert isn’t LeTendre’s only plan in the works. She has a local fundraising run arranged for June 2 to benefit mental health. The Darren Dash offers registrants the choice to participate in a half marathon, 5K or kiddie run. Proceeds will go to Desperate Tears.
Tickets for the Seventh Day Slumbert show are $10 in advance, $12 at the door, and are available at Hy-Vee Foods, online at paramounttheatre.org, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 507-440-4670.