The Night I Won the APMA

I was sitting on my back porch with my neighbor, Ben. We try and get together whenever we have some down time (which is very rare). He works for the post office and has a wife, two children and is about to have a third. He congratulated me on the Artist Philanthropic Award I won for HeartSupport at the Alternative Press Music Awards. I honestly did not believe we were going to win that award. Since it is based on popular vote, I had assumed that we weren’t “popular” enough to get the votes we needed to be the winners. However, my assumptions were proved wrong as they called my name to the stage. I began telling my neighbor Ben about the speech I had given and how I ended up stuttering due to nervousness and having so much to say with so little time to say it.

Once I won the award, I was immediately directed to interviews. As I was walking down a hallway backstage, an older gentlemen came up to me and said, “Jake, I really enjoyed your speech. It was very heartfelt, and I love what you are doing for these people in our music scene.” I thanked him for his support and kind words.

Immediately after, I was urged to go to the room where they were holding the interviews for everyone who won. Finally, I arrived at my destination after squeezing through the crowded hallways. The room was covered in lights, cameras, signed guitars, and painted in Paul Reed Smith (PRS) promo items.

Now, if you don’t know who or what PRS Guitars are…PRS is one of the most infamous guitar companies in the world. They are known to be elite in the guitar world. I would personally say they are above your average “rock” guitar and are more for the guitar enthusiasts and true-hearted musicians. You’ll find a lot of them being played by top musicians, including one of my favorite bands, Between The Buried and Me, who have been involved with PRS in the past.

So after I finish this interview for winning the Philanthropy award, I set off to the side to find my Fearless Public Relations Manager, Heather, and another woman comes up to me and says, “May I have a photo with you? I loved your speech and really love what you are doing. By the way, do you know this gentlemen who is standing beside me?” I replied, “Well I just met him briefly in the hall, but I don’t believe we really had the moment to be introduced.” She says, “This is Mr. Paul Reed Smith.”

My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe that the man himself was there. The man who started Paul Reed Smith Guitars and who is a true legend in music, not just our genre. I mean, come on, legends play his guitars. It had blown my mind that just 15 minutes prior he had been congratulating me, and I had absolutely no idea whose hand I was shaking.

I ran into quite a few other people in the music industry that are big wigs—guys who have been around and behind the scenes for years—all congratulating me and saying how much they love HeartSupport and what we are committed to.

The next morning I woke up in my hotel room, and my bandmates had all left already. I was just taking my time before hitting the road for the six and a half hour drive back to PA.

I sat on my bed and was just trying to soak up all that had happened, all that was going on within me, and what winning this award truly meant. I started to pray to God just giving him thanks and ended up in tears.

I started to see that it wasn’t August Burns Red that won this award. It wasn’t even Jake Luhrs from August Burns Red winning this award. It had nothing to do with the band. It had to do with the fact that here stood a man who believed in a vision he felt came from God and committed himself to it.

Six years ago it was just me. I had no employees; I had no understanding of running a non-profit. I had never really “counseled” someone or written a blog. I don’t have the best writing abilities; I’m not the best with my words, and I don’t have the greatest education, but what I did have was a vision and the desire to see it become alive.

God gave me strength, guided me, kept telling me to pursue and push take the time to learn…to talk to others to help me, support my vision, and support the cause. I had no money, but God brought me one specific donor who believed in HeartSupport and me. His son was suicidal, and the night his son wanted to hang himself, the lyrics from the song “Redemption” came to his mind. So he decided not to kill himself but rather start leaning on God to help him. So his father recognized what I was doing and started donating and helping me.

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I had no idea how to run a non-profit and was just trying to pick up pieces to see if they fit. God brought me Craig Gross. This man runs a multi-million dollar ministry called XXX Church. He took me under his wing and helped teach me how to run a non-profit, how to become a leader and entrepreneur. He spent money on me, gave me books to read, showed me the ropes and is today a very good friend of mine and on the board for HeartSupport.

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I didn’t have a real team and only found a few bloggers here and there to write for me as I tried carrying most of the weight of the non-profit on my back.

Then came Ben Sledge. He loved HeartSupport and what it stood for. He has a huge heart for people and has the desire to be a writer. He wrote a blog for HS, and it took off like a shot. Ben then pursued me to be a part of the HeartSupport team. God brought me Ben Sledge. The great thing about Ben is that he is different than me. We don’t always see eye to eye on things, but he was raised a lot differently, has experienced many things I have not and has a different view on the world than I do. At first I was thinking about him being on the team and praying about him coming on as a full-time volunteer. I was talking to God saying, “Why? Why would I have him on my team when he is so different than I am?” I felt like that’s exactly why God brought Him to the team. For the simple fact that he is different than me. We can learn from one another, we can build off each other, and we can put one another in check and see things that the other isn’t seeing. He can impact people in a way that I can’t and vice versa. He was my other half at HeartSupport.

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Then we grew, and we ended up getting another member and then another and then another. Now we have a team of 6 full-time employees and over 50 volunteers. God brought me a team.


We’ve reached thousands of people at Warped Tour, which we’ve been on four years in a row. We’ve had over 50 bands give us interviews and support us in our campaigns. We have thousands of people coming to speak openly about their struggles and help encourage one another.

And now we have an award that proves we are who we say we are. That we’ve been accepted into the music scene and have a place at its table. That the community IS being seen and heard and that it is here to stay.

This all came from a man who saw what God was showing Him and put his strength, dedication and desire to the test, while God brought him everything he needed along the way—others who were like-minded, who have heart, who want to give, who want to share, who want to love. And because of that, HeartSupport is alive and thriving today.

For many years, no one really knew HeartSupport. No one really seemed to have interest. I would rest my head at night not knowing where it would go, how long it would last, or if anyone would be helped by it. All I knew was it was in my heart, it was something I felt I needed to commit to, and it would fill me up to work on it.

[clickToTweet tweet=”When you have a dream or a passion, all you need is commitment to make it come to life.” quote=”All I knew was that it was in my heart. It was something I felt I needed to commit to, and it would fill me up to work on it.”]

What do you have a vision for? Where does your heart yearn to be? For those of faith, pray to God and ask for direction or vision.

For those not of faith, think hard as to what is most precious to you, what is most important to you. Start to look at that and analyze what it truly means. Start doing it.

We have one life to live. Life is short. Let us live it the way we truly believe we should.

Fight for what you believe in and what you love because nothing else matters.

  • Cheng

    congratulations 🙂 glad to see you guys grow alongside those you’ve touched. I’ve actually followed heartsupport for about 2 years now. Great to see God working 🙂

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