This op-ed originally ran in AP 283. Buy a back copy here.

Canadian pop-punks SIMPLE PLAN have touched thousands of people all over the world with their music. But as drummer CHUCK COMEAU explains, that’s not enough—they need to give back as much and as often as they can.

When I look back on Simple Plan’s career, I can’t help but be amazed and humbled by how blessed and privileged we’ve been. We’ve sold over eight million records, headlined arenas and played stadiums. We have gold and platinum records on our walls, and awards and trophies on our shelves. Our music has traveled all over the world, and we’ve been able to perform in more than 60 countries, including China, Israel, Russia, Brazil and South Africa. I’ve had the chance to accomplish almost every childhood dream I ever had, and I owe it all to being in this little band that we started in our parents’ basement almost 13 years ago. I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am.

But even more important than all this, I’ve come to realize just how powerful music can be and the amazing impact it can have on people’s lives. This is true for everyone who just loves music, but even more for those who deal with serious issues in their lives. When you start a band, you don’t realize the songs you write can mean so much to people you’ve never met. But over the last 10 years, I’ve had literally thousands of fans pull me aside to tell me that our songs helped them go through a tough time—that without “Perfect,” “Welcome To My Life” or “Save You,” they wouldn’t be here today. I don’t think I ever realized how tough life could be for some of our fans before reading all the heartbreaking letters we get from young people dealing with depression, drug abuse, suicide, family troubles, homophobia and life-threatening diseases such as cancer. They all tell us that music is their lifeline, the only thing that can take away the pain and keep them alive. In some ways, for a band, it’s the ultimate compliment when your music can touch people like that. But at the same time, it’s really crazy to think that many young people are going through their lives feeling so lost and alone. Meeting all those fans and reading their stories has had a profound impact on us. It made us question if just writing songs for them was enough, and what kind of legacy we wanted to leave behind. It made us want to try to make a difference in their lives. That’s why we decided to start the Simple Plan Foundation in December 2005. It has ben our way to give back and try to do something good in the world.

Since 2005, the Simple Plan Foundation has donated over $750,000 to various charitable groups in Canada and across the world—and next year, we expect to hit 1 million dollars in donations. We have donated money to organizations such as Kids Help Phone (a free counseling service for young teens), War Child (who build schools and educational programs for kids in war-torn countries), Leucan and Kids Cancer Care (two groups who provide hope and support to cancer patients and their families), Dr Julien’s Music Garage (they offer low-income youth a place where they can play music and be creative) and GRIS-Québec (a charity dedicated to eradicating homophobia and helping young gay people, among many others).

The Foundation has really become an integral part of who we are as a band, and we’re always trying to come up with new ways to raise money. Every year, we have our traditional benefit concert where all proceeds go to our Foundation. This year, we had the privilege to play with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and raised over $300,000 in one night! Additionally, we made the decision to give away one dollar of every single concert ticket that we sell around the world to the Foundation. We auction off signed guitars, backstage passes and jam sessions as well and ask our friends in bands such as Good Charlotte, the Offspring, Arcade Fire and My Chemical Romance to donate signed items for our auctions. We also design special merchandise, like the #HelpJapan shirt we made for Red Cross Japan, with all proceeds going to the Foundation. With our team of volunteers, we sit down and carefully choose what organizations to which we will donate.

Honestly, it’s more work that I ever imagined it would be, but it’s hard to put into words how rewarding and life-changing this experience has been. I never thought I could feel so proud of something. When we meet young people we’ve helped, or when you look at a picture like the one on this page, it’s hard not to get choked up and feel good inside.

Obviously, I fully realize that our contribution with the SPF is just a tiny drop in the ocean, but my greatest hope is that maybe the Simple Plan Foundation will inspire other bands and young music fans to get involved and give back. In a world obsessed with celebrity scandals and gossip, that would be a great start, right?

Together, we decided that the Foundation would have three main goals:
-> To help organizations working with young people facing
     difficult teenage problems
-> To support charities dedicated to helping children with life-
     threatening illnesses, especially cancer patients
-> To promote the practice of music as a way to help young people
     find a passion in life, and support music-therapy programs that
     help kids who are sick.

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