WEST HOLLYWOOD — When Santa Monica High School freshman Matthew Mezza leapt from the 10th-story window of the Sheraton Delfina in January, a group of dedicated teenagers and volunteers mobilized to provide comfort, support and a ready ear for students and adults impacted by the event.
Sunday, those who received help will get the opportunity to give it, and at the same time commemorate the young man lost too soon.
Teen Line, a nonprofit organization that trains teenagers to respond to anonymous phone calls from suicidal peers, will put on its second annual night of music and dancing called Summer Lovin’ this weekend at the Roxy in Hollywood to raise money for its efforts.
The event, Summer Lovin’ 2011, is dedicated to Mezza’s memory, said Dr. Elaine Leader, the director and co-founder of Teen Line.
Summer Lovin’ 2010 was the brainchild of Teen Line volunteer Jordan Bloch, now a student at Stanford University.
Bloch joined Teen Line in response to the suicide of his friend, Matthew Silverman.
After getting through the 60 hours of intensive training that the group requires of its volunteers before they’re allowed to respond to calls, Bloch approached Leader with a dilemma.
“He was afraid to take a suicide call,” Leader said. “He came to me and said, ‘I don’t think I can take calls, but can I do something else to help Teen Line?”
Bloch’s response was the original Summer Lovin’ 2010, which he dedicated to Silverman’s memory. With the help of a committee of other teen volunteers, Bloch managed to raise an amazing $45,000.
This year, Bloch passed the baton to Jonathan Friedman, a senior at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, and Leader decided to reach out to the family of Mezza to see if they would be open to throwing this year’s event in his honor.
The Mezza family has history with Teen Line since Matthew’s death. Out of gratitude for the service, Mezza’s mother, Ellie Schneir, requested that family and friends make donations to Teen Line in his memory.
“We got over $10,000 in donations,” Leader said. “Over 100 people donated.”
After careful reflection, the Mezza family agreed, and Friedman got to work to make this year’s event a success.
Friedman began training with Teen Line in summer of 2009. As a sophomore in high school, he got through the two levels of training, called Observer and Listener.
Observers respond to hurting teenagers who reach out to Teen Line through text message and online contact. Those responses get checked over by professional therapists or interns.
After additional training and 15 role playing situations, an Observer graduates to Listener, and is given the green light to handle calls.
“I’ve been a Listener for almost two years now,” Friedman said. “It’s probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, because you get to talk to these people. You are a deciding factor on how their life will play out for that week, that day and years to come. If someone’s suicidal, and by the end of the call they feel positive about their lives, it’s the best feeling you’ve ever had.”
Friedman helped out with Summer Lovin’ 2010 informally, and wasn’t really sure he wanted to get heavily involved this year when Bloch approached him with the proposition that he take on planning the event.
“At first, I was hesitant, because it was summer and I had a lot on my plate,” he said. “It’s turned out to be a lot of fun.”
It’s definitely a different angle of the Teen Line experience than talking down suicidal teens, however.
Friedman and his team set themselves a goal of $25,000, and got to work getting a venue, lining up talent and trying to get money out of corporate donors.
In 2010, the event relied a lot on personal connections, many of which were lost when the older volunteers graduated and dispersed for college. This year, volunteers are working on getting more institutional support, Friedman said.
“It’s hard a lot of the time, but it’s worth it when people are willing to meet you where you want to go,” Friedman said.
As of last week, volunteers had almost hit the $25,000 mark, and were feeling hopeful about reaching their goal. They’re hoping that teens will come and check out the event, featuring DJs Iyazz and Mann, as well as teen DJs and special guests.
Mann, a hip-hop artist who’s worked with Snoop Dogg, will open, followed by Iyazz, the artist behind the song “Replay” that hit charts last summer. Planners are keeping the identity of a third musician under wraps.
“What I want everyone to know is that it’s not a somber night for a charity,” Friedman said. “It’s a Sunday night, there’s not some huge house party everyone needs to go to. It’s a fun concert at the Roxy, and we hope everyone who’s in Los Angeles at the time will stop by and enjoy.”
The Roxy is located at 9009 West Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, Calif., 90069.
Those interested in attending the event can purchase tickets for $20 in advance at teenlineonline.org, or at the door for $25.
Teens who want to reach out to Teen Line for support can contact a Listener at 1-800-TLC-TEEN (1-800-852-8336).