I’m not an internationally beloved celeb, but I have to think the best perk of being so famous is having a legion of adoring fans behind you. If I was lucky enough, my fans would be half as amazing as what 30 Seconds To Mars has: The Echelon. These phans -- read, fans and philanthropists -- are nothing short of world-changing. They’ve built 28 (and counting!) houses, planted trees in Haiti and raised money for water projects through charity: water.
Since 2012 was such an amazing year for The Echelon (yep, it was a good year for some), we were excited to see what they had up their sleeves for 2013. This year, the Echelon has partnered up with Alter Bridge fans (better known as AB Nation) for a pretty special cause: raising awareness for four year old Luca, who is fighting complications of Meningococcal Septicaemia. Luca lost both his legs below the knee to the disease and will struggle through many surgeries in his lifetime.
Alter Bridge front man Myles Kennedy displays a “Hands-Up” for Luca in this photo. Other celebs, including The O.C.’s Samaire Armstrong, have already shown their support. We spoke with Sophie Kat, one of the founders of Echelon Donates, to learn more about the movement.
Photo: First row from left to right: Luke Johnson of Lost Prophets, Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge. Second row from left to right: Jason Christopher of Stone Sour with Samaire Armstrong and Bumblefoot of Guns N' Roses (Twitter and Facebook)
ACT: From planting trees to building houses, it's safe to say The Echelon is a powerful group of world-changers its own right. Why was it important to you to team up with AB Nation?
SOPHIE: This time we wanted to differentiate the way we would approach this cause. We needed to reach out to as many people as possible and since Myles Kennedy (whom we both love and respect) fired up the whole idea with his “Hands-Up For Luca,” photo we thought we should connect the two fan bases and JOIN FORCES! The Echelon has a great background in charities which Faye thought would be really beneficial for the success of the project. Plus we are both loyal fans of the band Alter Bridge so it’s important to team up with the AB Nation to hopefully inspire some AB fans to start their own charity projects in the future.
ACT: What would be the best thing to come out of this "Hands-Up" project for Luca? How will you define its success?
SOPHIE: Our main goal is to raise awareness about that brave kid. We want to let the world know that there are kids out there like him who constantly fight for their life with a smile on their face and they don’t give up! It’s truly remarkable when you think of it. Luca is such an inspiration. By helping him you help yourself to be a better person.
In order to take part in our project, you don’t need to donate -- you just have to do the hands-up for Luca by taking a picture of yourself. However, we encourage people to donate to Luca. At the end of the project, we will specially thank the people who donated. What would make us really happy is to know that people who we approached with our project will keep supporting him even after the project comes to an end.
Photo: MTV Act writer Claire Biggs shows her support for Luca. (Claire Biggs)
ACT: I know Myles Kennedy helped inspire this movement with his own picture. Have any of the 30STM members heard about the project yet?
SOPHIE: We believe that when Myles did the “Hands-Up,” he wanted to instigate a wave of support for Luca. The 30STM members haven’t heard about it yet as we just launched the project so we’ll give them some time. On a serious note, we want them to hear about it because people like them, who are highly influential, can make an even bigger difference. 30STM starts a tour in 2013 so we're planning to meet them and hopefully make them do the hands-up themselves just like Myles and his band mate Mark did (we asked Mark on Twitter to do it and he did it without a second thought).
ACT: For all other fan bases hoping to take after the Echelon, I've got to know: what advice would you give to fans who want to give back on your scale?
SOPHIE: There are many things to consider when it comes to giving back. First of all, you have to be organized. You can’t just start a charity project and expect others to donate. You need to do research. Make sure that the funds are REALLY going to charity. This is the tricky part -- you might need to make some extra calls and send some extra emails for that. You also have to be persistent. Yes, we know that daily tweet reminders are not the best thing that could appear in your timeline but you have to make sure that your followers have seen that you have this project going on. Do not hesitate to ask for help; you’ll be surprised how many people who love the same bands as you are willing to help out in every way they can. AND last but not least, be available and ready for any kinds of questions.
MTV Act: Last year was pretty incredible in terms of what you all have accomplished. Do you have any big goals for the 2013?
SOPHIE: Our main focus right now is the “Hands-up For Luca” project since we want to make it really big. We want to create a huge collage with all these hands-up pictures and we want to spread it worldwide. We haven’t told anyone about this yet (well we’re doing it now!), but we’d like to ask from people all over the world to print the collage and post it on walls outdoors, give it to strangers, spread the word about this! It’s amazing where you can get a donation from. Maybe someone will see the collage and decide to donate to Luca. You never know.
MTV ACT: We all want to know: How is Luca doing now? And where can we send people who want to do more to help him?
SOPHIE: His family says: "He is miles ahead of where we expected him to be. He is a happy 4-year-old with a lust for life and a cheeky smile. A much different place to where he was in January 2012. His left knee has recently completely sealed over and if it stays intact and the skin matures we will start fittings for prosthetic legs." During his lifetime Luca will face more operations on his legs and arms to re-graft the skin as it will not grow like normal skin.
For anyone who would like to help further please visit the official link to donate for Luca on his JustGiving page. You can also follow the Twitter account which supports the fundraising: @for_luca and on Facebook: forluca1. Also, you can purchase pin badges or wristbands to help out Luca. We send our best wishes and our positive thoughts to that little angel who’s a stronger fighter than most of us.
Photo: Infograph on how to help Luca. (Facebook)
There you have it, guys. Take a moment, grab a marker and give a “Hands-Up for Luca.” Let’s make sure as many people as possible know about this little rock star. Tweet us your #HandsUpForLuca photo, and make sure to send it in to Sophie and Faye at email@example.com.