Battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 5 and the divorce of his parents just two years later was too much for Patrick Runfeldt to handle.
In seventh grade, Runfeldt was diagnosed with depression, and in his junior year of high school, he started having suicidal thoughts.
Seeking help, Runfeldt learned about To Write Love On Her Arms, an organization dedicated to spreading awareness and a message of hope for those struggling with depression, self-injury or thoughts of suicide. His involvement with the group carried over into college.
The 20-year-old UF English junior is now president of the UF chapter of the organization.
To Write Love on Her Arms will host a benefit show at 7 p.m. Friday at the Civic Media Center, 433 S. Main St., to help raise awareness for others battling the same issue. There will be performances by acoustic bands, singer-songwriters and spoken word artists, including Runfeldt.
Runfeldt, who has been writing poetry for six years, will perform about four spoken-word poems during the concert. Poetry has helped him overcome his issues by tackling his feelings about cancer, racial identity and self-worth, he said.
“My poetry is very comedic,” he said. “You are laughing one minute, and then you have a lump in your throat the next.”
Izaura Spence, a 20-year-old UF finance junior, who is the benefit coordinator for the organization’s event, said she hopes at least 100 people attend the show.
Last year, people were required to purchase tickets. This year, the entry cost is a suggested donation of $4. Spence said the organization raised about $300 last year, and she hopes to match the same amount.
“I think people will be more willing to give because it’s a cheap option for a Friday night and gives them something to do,” she said.
The money will go toward The Storytellers High School Campaign, which the national organization started in October 2011. The campaign selects a student ambassador who works with his or her high school’s psychologist and guidance counselor to raise awareness about mental health issues.
The theme of the show is lyrics and conversation, so performers will talk with the audience in a small, intimate atmosphere about their backstory and times they have struggled.
Alex Perrin, 26, plans to give the audience a high-energy performance accompanied with a message of community.
Perrin is the musician behind Within Arms Reach, a solo acoustic-rock band that will perform at the event.
“I like for my listeners to feel like we’re all one,” he said. “It’s not about being a part of the scene or the city, but we’re a planet. We are a whole. Together we can conquer anything.”