One of the perks of working at Donately is the interactions I get to have with amazing nonprofits around the country. It's always inspiring to hear about all the great work that is being done to benefit those who need it the most.
Life Under the Wheel (LUTW) is no exception. In just one year, they've gone from idea to incorporation and have big plans for the future. To find out a little more, I recently chatted with Elizabeth Pikaart, LUTW's Director of Operations.
Andrew Berry: Why don't we start with the roots of the organization and a little about your mission.
Elizabeth Pikaart: Sure! In October 2016, Evan Gross (Co-founder and Executive Director) came up with an idea for a wish-granting organization that sends individuals living with life-threatening illnesses to music festivals all over the country. As veterans of the music festival scene, we have witnessed first-hand how music festivals create communities bound together by a passion for music and a love of sharing that experience with others. Extending this opportunity to folks who are going through some of the most trying times of their lives felt like a perfect way to provide a loving experience and celebrate the incredible music festival community, and remind everyone how special life can be.
AB: Amazing. So where are you guys now, and what do you have planned for the future?
EP: As both Evan and I come from a background of working with music festivals, we've used our network to create partnerships with some of the top promoters around the country. We've recruited a really well-rounded Board of Directors, which is comprised of individuals with decades of event management experience. They have certainly helped turn our vision into a reality.
In September of 2017, we hosted our first ever Festival Grant recipient, Calvin Huang, at Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival, voted 2016 Pollstar Festival of the Year. Calvin was diagnosed with a stage 4 glioblastoma in 2016. However, this didn’t stop him from completing his college degree. Calvin currently resides in the Bay Area, and is employed as a software engineer. As the first Life Under the Wheel Festival Grant recipient, Calvin and his girlfriend were given the VIP treatment at the festival and enjoyed seeing many artists like ZHU, Lorde, Muse, and Gorillaz.
We also had an onsite booth where we were able to interact with the patrons, share our mission, and sell official LUTW merchandise. This onsite booth is so key to our organization being a success because it give us the opportunity to have those one on one conversations with music lovers and really explain to them why our mission is so important.
In 2018, we hope to grow that number to eight, and further to ten in 2019. Obviously, depending on the response of the community, it could grow very quickly. Our goal isn't to make this a two or three-year "flash-in-the-pan" organization. We want to be sure that each experience is special for these folks; quality is preferred over quantity. If we change one life, that is incredible but I don't think it's out of the question that every major music festival should have at least one LUTW recipient each year. Our organization is focused on reaching a deeper level of engagement with music festival patrons and really celebrating the communities that form at these festivals. I am really excited about the impact this industry can have.
AB: What are some experiences you've had or stories you've heard that serve as inspiration?
EP: Many of my jobs at festivals have been working in the box office, so I've heard countless times how this festival is the first for a patron and how excited they are to be a part of the community.
There was one time, specifically, where an ADA patron bought the wrong ticket for his first festival. He was devastated because he thought he had just ruined his first experience and would probably not have the confidence to come to another one. After we assessed the situation, it was amazing to see the response of both the staff and other patrons. Everyone worked tirelessly to create an amazing experience for him. It really showed me how special the community was, and the lengths it will go to help a complete stranger experience something so special.
AB: That is really special. Final question, what is the organization currently doing for fundraising, and where do you see those efforts going in the future?
EP: We currently utilize Donately on our donate page to drive donations from site visitors. Given how strong the community is, we're also leveraging the peer fundraising capabilities so folks can share their own stories and drive awareness to our cause with their own networks.
Outside of that, our festival partners have been gracious enough to showcase us on their websites so we can continue to build awareness. We also plan to have a big presence at the festivals themselves, where we can highlight the organization to festival goers and hopefully drive some on-site donations.
For now, we're just really excited about where this organization is heading and know that others are too!
If you'd like to learn more about Life Under the Wheel, please visit their website at LifeUnderTheWheel.org.