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2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit

SongwritingWith:Soldiers

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Military & Veterans Organizations, Music, Veterans

Mission: We transform lives by using collaborative songwriting to expand creativity, connections, and strengths.

Results: In a few short years, SongwritingWith:Soldiers (SW:S) has worked with more than 250 veterans, active-duty members, and military families in 20+ retreats around the country. Over 250 extraordinary songs have been written. These songs have helped participants share their experiences with families, friends, co-workers, and communities. SW:S makes the songs available across the nation through concerts, downloads, and social media, raising awareness and bridging the military/civilian divide. “This was the best experience of my life! I recommend this program to all veterans who were in combat. I would do this again and again. Thank you for your time and service to veterans! AWESOME!” (SW:S Veteran, Feb 2016)

Target demographics: Veterans, Active-Duty service members, Military Families, Student Veterans

Geographic areas served: Based in Austin, Texas, we also hold workshops and retreats in locations from New York to California.

Programs: SongwritingWith:Soldiers pairs veterans, service members, and their families with professional songwriters in beautiful retreat settings to craft songs about military experiences, combat, and the transition home. Collaborative songwriting builds trust, connection, community, and a sense of well being - things that veterans often feel they have lost. Retreats are kept small to instill confidence and maximize face time for participants. Intensive songwriting sessions are balanced with Creativity Workshops (e.g. photography, journaling), guided relaxation, and community-building activities. Participants have described the program as "healing," "cathartic," "validating," "transformative," and "fun!" This innovative program, founded by Texas singer-songwriter Darden Smith, is offered at no cost to participants from all branches of the military. 95% of donated funds go directly to the program serving veterans.

Community Stories

12 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 5

This is an incredible organization, doing amazing things for our veterans and active duty soldiers. It is unlike any other organization out there. They are making a real difference in these peoples lives. Every veteran/soldier should have the opportunity to attend one of their retreats.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My time at the SW:S retreat helped in preventing my suicide. The hope they showed and gave me has stayed with me. I owe my life to SW:S and so do many others.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

SW:S changed me, my family, and my world around me. I used to have a hard time telling my story about my combat trauma experiences and I was ashamed to tell my story about my military sexual trauma experiences. Since SW:S, I still have some difficultly; however, now all I have to do is PRESS PLAY. Having my story through songs has helped me in more ways than this block can hold! Honestly, I think the true blessing has been the way my songs have touched others with PTSD from combat or MST or both. Thank you SW:S for letting my light shine once again. I hate having to give you such a low rating of just a 5 star!

---The "I" is for Inspiring

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our retreat to Boulder Crest was AH-MAZING! We went for the Songwriting with Soldiers retreat mostly because this appealed to our youngest daughter and came away HUGE believers in music therapy. Everyone was so kind and interested in helping in any way they could and I highly recommend retreats with either group that you may be able to do in the future.

It brought us closer together and we haven't been able to stop talking about it since!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I'm proud to say I was the first song written at the first retreat headed up by Darden Smith. I was suffering from the mental anguish of PTSD when I attended the first Songwriting retreat. Darden, Radney, Jay, Mary and the rest of the coordinators, volunteers and attendees brought me out of my shell. "God Challenged Me" was the jump-start I needed to unleash the floodgates of emotions and creativity. I highly recommend this retreat to anyone - even those who are not musically inclined like me. Not only was I an attendee, I'm now a volunteer. That's how much I believe in Songwriting with Soldiers!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

A fantastic group and a tremendous cause! Please support their efforts!

1 Joseph55

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a volunteer and participant, I can whole-heartedly pronounce the impact this organization has on my well-being. They consistently restore self-worth to others. I urge anyone that is curious about their gifts to others, to watch the PBS documentary, listen to some songs, and read more about the powerful role this organization plays in helping veterans and families tell their stories.

PBS documentary: http://video.klru.tv/video/2365566784/

Donor

Rating: 5

This is an incredibly talented and compassionate charity that responds individually to "lost soldiers", most often overwhelmed and unable to reenter society or family life productively due to physical injures and/or ptsd. . . .The ability of SongwritingWith:Soldiers to help soldiers begin to overcome their extreme challenges by expressing it in a song (created by musicians) which uniquely helps a soldier begin to free his/her soul of its pain means we are helping give our brave warriors a personal life back. . . .one soldier at a time. The non-profit "delivers" like no other.

Barbara243

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization is changing and in many cases saving lives, through the power of collaborative songwriting. I've met veterans who have been through the program and have seen first hand how transformative it can be.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A unique supported experience for veterans to interact with professional songwriters to share their story. Wonderful idea to help nurture and educate.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is an organization that truly brings people together in an honest, open, and creative way. Songwriting allows connections to form, and the creativity inspires all involved! Love this program!

2 Roger37

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The first retreat I attended was with my family at Boulder Crest Retreat in May, 2015. Honestly, I was very nervous and my family had to do a lot of convincing to get me to attend this family-oriented retreat, as I am not one to share my experiences and feelings with those outside my wife and children, and usually not even then. We arrived on that late Friday afternoon, checked in and wondered what was to come next. During dinner, Darden Smith sat down with myself and my family & immediately put my mind at ease with his caring nature, openness and kindness. After dinner, everyone introduced themselves and Darden and Mary Judd discussed the plans for the weekend. Afterwards, we attended the first "Jam Session" of the weekend where some of the songs written at previous retreats were showcased. Songs written by people whom I'd never met, yet shared similar experiences with elicited emotions and memories I hadn't felt in years. Throughout the weekend my family and myself had the privilege of composing 4 songs with some of the most talented, giving and caring people we'd ever met. We also got the honor of getting to know the other families attending the retreat, both by talking to them, and hearing their songs during Saturday & Sunday's "Jam Sessions" which turned the participants' raw emotion into beautiful music.
The experiences during that weekend brought my family closer together and the memories and music will be something we shall always cherish.