meet the board
That believes in what we do
Jake Luhrs is the lead singer of Grammy-nominated metal band, August Burns Red and founder of HeartSupport. To date, he has toured hundreds of countries internationally and reached the Top 10 BillBoard charts multiple times. After seeing his fans struggling through addiction, depression, and suicide ideation, he prayed one evening for a way to help his fans and people around the world find hope and faith. The answer to that prayer was HeartSupport. In the short years Jake has been running HeartSupport, he has united bands and fans alike to carry a message of hope, healing, and restoration to a scene that is typically viewed as “dark” and “without hope.” His efforts thus far have led the organization to be nominated twice for philanthropic awards up against the likes of Doctors Without Borders and the American Cancer Society. In 2016 he won the Artist Philanthropic Award at the Alternative Press Music Awards in recognition for his work at HeartSupport. In addition to HeartSupport and his band, he also runs a clothing line company called “More Weight” that inspires others to reach and achieve their health goals through community support.
Marlis Oliver is the Executive Director of K&N Management, a company that oversees Rudy’s BBQ and Mighty Fine Burgers in Austin, TX and is the recipient of the prestigious Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award. Awarded in 2010, K&N Management is just the second restaurant group to be recognized with the prestigious national honor. The award is a tremendous validation of how K&N Management compares to other companies across the country and establishes it as a role model business under the leadership of Marlis. The award is given to role model organizations that demonstrate exceptional performance in areas of management including leadership, strategic planning, customer service, workforce focus, process management, data analysis knowledge management, and results. To date, Marlis has worked 17 years for the company and guides HeartSupport through its annual strategic plan to reach its goals of becoming a world class non-profit.
Michelle Saari has been an advocate and mental health professional for the past 14 years. She holds both a Ph.D. and Masters degree in psychology and is a licensed mental health provider, and Board certified clinical supervisor in the state of Minnesota. She is also a Nationally Certified Counselor through the NBCC (National Board for Certified Counselors). As a long time fan of the heavy metal music industry, she was aware of the negativity and darkness that many in the scene face. Seeing Heartsupport as a unique blend of the music community, relationship building and hope for those struggling, she began volunteering on the ground at Vans Warped Tour. Michelle has helped the organization grow to reach even more people while encouraging others to live the healthiest lives they can and discover their best self. Outside of her professional service, she can be found exploring the outdoors, spending time exercising, and attending as many concerts and music festivals as her schedule allows.
Ben Sledge is a wounded combat veteran with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and a recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions overseas. Upon returning home, he found himself battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a failed marriage, and believing he was better off dead. It wasn’t until his friend took him to church that he found life, purpose, and hope. After 11 years in the military, he began working for a geopolitical intelligence firm where he was quickly promoted through the ranks and oversaw their Design Department. Sensing a call to ministry, he became a licensed pastor in his home church where he came to faith and still serves as the young adult pastor. Shortly after he left his corporate job after 3 years volunteering with HeartSupport to reach the very person he used to be: lost, alone, and struggling through addiction.
Ben now runs the day-to-day operations of HeartSupport while speaking professionally around the country to churches, non-profits, the U.S. military, and businesses. A prolific writer and artist, his artwork and writing has been featured in TIME magazine, two New York Times Best Selling Novels, the New York Times, Washington Post, Daily Mail, The Good Men Project, Fox News, CNN, and many more publications. His writing for HeartSupport often reaches the Top 20 on medium.com.
Brian currently works as the President and Founder of China-America Healthcare Partners. Prior to that he was the CEO of Z-Medica, a medical device company specializing in hemostatic products used to accelerate the clotting of blood in severe bleeding situations. By 2008, his company was a small supplier to the U.S. Military; brought in in 2008 to diversify the company into a broad based medical device healthcare company selling to hospitals. This included developing a healthcare-focused sales team throughout the United States, hiring healthcare senior experienced personnel in all Company departments, and developing a 4-year strategic and detailed business plans. Brian met Jake Luhrs through his son, Ben, who had planned to kill himself. Due to HeartSupport’s influence and involvement, his son is alive and thriving.