I Love U Guys, k?" 

-Emily Keyes



5 Places to Find and Give Love This Valentines Day 
By Linda T. Kennedy

Candy conversation hearts have sentimental words such as "Do It For Love" and "Easy to Love." There are non-profit organizations, though, that put words like that into action. Their outreach missions are starting conversations that change lives. Here are five organizations with sweet purposes that are relevant every day of the year.


I Love U Guys, k?  

On Sept. 27, 2006, a gunman entered Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado. He took seven girls hostage and one of them, Emily Keyes, sent her parents text messages up to the moment she was shot and killed. "I love u guys, k?" Keyes told her parents.

In their grief, Emily's parents, John-Michael and Ellen, turned tragedy into purpose and formed the I Love U Guys Foundation, an organization to initiate research and programs about school safety.

"We started the foundation within days of losing Emily," says Emily's father, John-Michael. "Initially, we helped other organizations in support of our mission. It was 2009 when we introduced our first school safety program, the Standard Response Protocol."

Keyes says the organization's conversation is simple. "It’s really about how to have, perhaps, a tough conversation with kids and teens, in a way that is not fear based, but resilient. Sometimes it’s about teaching the adults in the room how to have that conversation," he says. Now, there are over 20,000 schools in the U.S. and Canada using the foundation's programs.

The mantra for the I Love U Guys Foundation is love, says Keyes. "We’re a small organization and we love what we do. Folks that use our programs seem to love making them happen in their world. What’s the most fun is that whenever there is an introduction of either one of us personally, or our programs, people have to say it: 'I love u guys.'” 

For more information, contact Sabra Jewell, development director, sabraberger@gmail.com.


Do It For The Love 
In 2013, musician Michael Franit, Napa, California, was on tour when his appendix ruptured. The experience gave him the idea to grant people living with life-threatening illnesses the opportunity to attend live concerts. He founded Do It For The Love, an organization with a mission statement put to song. (Listen to Franit's song "Do It For The Love.")

Now people can nominate themselves or others to see any musician perform in concert, and sometimes, have a meet and greet opportunity with the artist. "We hope to bring the healing power of music to those who need it most, and eliminate financial and logistical obstacles associated with attending live music concerts," says Kelli Finley, Do It For The Love marketing and outreach manager. "Families have the opportunity to be together, enjoying live music, and sharing the love that they have for each other."  

Since its founding, the organization has granted over 800 live music wishes. For wish grant-related questions, contact Alexis Munnelly, program coordinator, alexis@doitforthelove.org.
 



Easy to Love 
Six years ago, sitting in an old library room with two families, Lindsay Bartholomew and Jennifer Levy, Salt Lake City, Utah, started a conversation about raising children with mental health issues. That was the start of Utah Easy to Love, an organization founded to help families with special needs kids support each other.  

"Now our biggest conversation is focusing on children's mental health and creating awareness and understanding in our community," says Bartholomew about the organization, which has expanded to four groups of families. "Mental health already has a stigma but even less is accepted and understood when it comes to children."

Easy to Love now works with other mental health agencies and clinics in Utah to provide workshops, events and training. The organization is not diagnosis specific, but is for families raising children with invisible disabilities such as autism, sensory processing disorder and learning disorders. "We found that no matter the diagnosis many of these families are facing similar challenges," says Bartholomew. For more information, contact Bartholomew, lindsay@utaheasy2love.org.


Locks of Love 
The saying "like mother, like daughter" certainly applies to Madonna Coffman, West Palm Beach, Florida, and her daughter. Both of them, at different times in their lives, developed alopecia and lost their hair. Coffman says, though, that seeing her 4-year-old daughter loose her hair was harder than losing her own hair. However, it inspired Coffman to start the Locks of Love organization, which provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.

Twenty years since its founding, the organization provides thousands of hairpieces, free of charge, to recipients in the U.S. and Canada. "The resilience of children is awe inspiring and we are proud to give them back their self-esteem and smiles," says Coffman. The organization has also provided $3.7 million in research funds to find a cause and cure for alopecia areata. For more information, call the toll-free information line: (888) 896-1588.


P.S. I Love You
Patricia Jones, Redondo Beach, California, discovered how she could help thousands of kids from the experience of helping only a few. When she learned her elderly friend quit her job to care for five great-grandchildren because authorities incarcerated the children’s mother and grandmother, Jones stepped in with support to help her friend through the experience. Jones then formed the P.S. I Love You Foundation so others could help kids in similar situations.

That was 19 years ago, and since then, Jones has spearheaded several social and emotional learning programs for at-risk youth in schools. "We want to influence positive habits, social and emotional awareness and healthy relationships," says Jones. "The conversation about that is different depending on who we're talking with on any given day. If we're in the classroom speaking with kids or instructors about leading a competent life, it is a little different than when we're talking with parents and principals." For more information, contact Jones: 310.420.4717.