Almost all people experience a time when a connection to music is one of the strongest bonds of their young lives. Crying or laughing in your room or car, there are times when lyrics are the only thing that make sense to you, and rhythm is the only thing that can soothe you. At those times it seems nothing else exists in the world but you and your favorite band. Laura Murphy has taken this incredible connection between young people and music and helped harness it into an inspirational force for good.
Unite the United began in 2005 from a desire to bring together the music industry to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita. After originally collecting memorabilia, instruments, and VIP ticket packages for a silent auction, Laura says the project grew from there.
“We took a crash course in eBay and started selling this,” said Laura. “We made a bunch of money doing that and we continued to receive donations from not just our music industry friends, but people in the action sports world, you know BMX motocross, skateboarders, snowboarders, all these athletes that we work with on the Warped Tour.”
The following summer, Unite the United went beyond just raising funds and got out into the community. They partnered with a local organization, Volunteer Center of South West Louisiana, and brought out about 700 volunteers from the Warped Tour to clean up an area that had been hit hard by the hurricanes.
“It’s so much fun to get out there and do it,” said Laura. “These skinny punk rockers rarely see the light of day and they’re scraping seaweed off of the beach or picking up rubble from the hurricane damage, or fixing an old ladies front porch. It’s fantastic.”
Partnering with local organizations became an integral part of Unite the United. In addition to selling memorabilia on eBay, they invite community organizations to set up an area at the Warped Tour and other music festivals where they can engage young people. Laura believes that it’s important for people to learn about philanthropy and community activism at a young age.
“So instead of just learning about issues throughout the world or throughout the country they can actually have a hands on impact on making their community a better place,” said Laura. “Through music young people can really attach themselves to certain causes.”
Unite the United motivates young people to get involved by not only inspiring them through their music idols, but by giving them tangible rewards for their efforts. They encourage young people to send in essays about volunteer work that they’ve done and in exchange, give them backstage passes or meet-and-greets with their favorite band out on the tour.
Like so many of the amazing women we feature, Laura is a real renaissance woman when it comes to working to do good. She’s the kind of do-good wonder woman we’d almost hate for being so good, if we didn’t love her so much for being so awesome
In addition to her work with engaging youth through music, Laura is also working to set up a foundation that provides free or low cost Naturopathic healthcare.
“My newest mission is to educate people about natural health and try to do it in a way that they can understand and that they can use on a daily basis,” said Laura. “The important part is to teach people how to take care of themselves and their own families so they don’t have to rely on pharmaceuticals. Teaching people proper nutrition, teaching people simple home remedies to take care of their health or to take care of their family’s health.”
Laura has set up free natural healthcare clinics backstage, but envisions one day bringing mobile clinics to music festivals like the Warped Tour and Coachella combining her passions for natural health and music.
Whether it’s asking a generation how does it feel to be on your own or to imagine all the people sharing all the world music has always been a powerful voice speaking to young people. Much of the power of music lies in its ability to make a person feel they are no longer alone. Laura’s work through Unite the United allows young Americans to believe that not only are they not alone, but that they are part of a greater good.
“Music is a fantastic conduit to bring young people to all sorts of causes,” said Laura. “They can see that through music festivals through the artists that they look up to that they can actually make a difference. They can become inspired by people that are their role models.
Women Working to Do Good is a series that Hello Giggles and the White House have been collaborating on. We will bring you stories of women in communities across the United States who we think are stars in their own right. Whether they are young entrepreneurs, active community organizers, or making a difference in a single life or community, we think these women are amazing and want to share their stories with you! Each story will also be featured on the White House blog, and we are working together to bring more strong female role models to the forefront.
If there is a woman in your community who you think should be honored in this series, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Images courtesy of Laura Murphy