Travis Aaron Wade is an insanely talented actor who has become a favorite among the Supernatural fandom because of his caring nature and willingness to interact and connect with the fans. He has also recently jointed the convention circuit and become one of the most requested actors for upcoming conventions. As an avid Wade fan, this writer knows just how incredibly talented he is and how wonderful he is to his fans but we wanted to show a different side of him, the side where he is doing unbelievably wonderful things with a variety of different charities.
This writer was given the opportunity to speak with Wade about his charity work and some of the projects he’s working on. Here is what you need to know:
BECCA ROSE: What can you tell our readers about Arm The Animals and some of the other charities you’re working with?
TRAVIS AARON WADE: Arm the Animals is something that I am quite passionate about. There are times that I am questioned why 100% of the money doesn’t go towards the specific cause and my answer is this: our T-shirt company is meant for the conscientious consumer who wants to feel good that their money is going towards the purchase of a great tank or tee designed by truly gifted artists, while simultaneously supporting a very important cause. It’s a win/win situation in my book.
I became involved with Arm The Animals because, one of my oldest, dearest friends, Matt Heinemeyer, had a sister, Karen, who worked for rescues in downtown Los Angeles, which she ran herself until, sadly, became very ill. She feared that with her life passing the rescues would close. My friend came to me with the hopes of creating a t-shirt design that would use a portion of the money to continue what his sister had built. Soon after Karen passed away, Arm the Animals was born and Matt was able to keep his sister’s passion and dedication to helping animals alive. My role in the company, along with investing, is to use my name in a way that I am proud of, spread the word and be involved in a really great cause.
Five years ago, I began to embrace one of my key roles- get the shirts on celebrities and friends. One of those friends was Taylor Kinney, who at the time was a young actor struggling in the business. But there was something about Taylor- I could tell that he was really going to do well. And I was right. He’s now he’s on Chicago Fire and engaged to Lady Gaga. He was one of our supporters and one of the first ones to put the shirt on his back. We have a handful of celebrities like that who were able to get the shirt out there including Zac Brown who has been wearing it all tour for the past five years, he’s been wearing it multiple times, all from donation and free of charge. Ashley Greene was another first...Ashley and I have known each other for a long time. She had only done a few Twilights when we night we bumped into one another at an event and I told her what I was doing. She said, ‘well go grab the shirt I’ll put it on,’ and right then and there she threw on the shirt. It was that kind of support that people have given to the cause has helped it gain so much attention that I am so grateful for. The few that I have named, along with countless others, have helped us free Raju, the elephant who was held captive for fifty years, to save dolphins, whales, and sea lions. It also gave us the opportunity to not only keep rescues open; but also allowed us to help produce and create a documentary that helps save Sharks. So essentially, whatever animal or logo is on the t-shirt the money that is used to buy that specific t-shirt goes directly towards a specific rescue or facility. We range in so many different way in how we help different animals and were are growing considerably. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be involved and part of the story.
BR: Like you said in the beginning, at some of the bigger charities not all the money goes to the animals, so it’s really great to hear that the money is going where it should be with Arm the Animals.
TAW: We work directly with charities that donate everything that we give to their specific cause. When I started going to these conventions for Supernatural, one of the things that really struck me was when I started to see the amount of stuff that the celebrities were receiving. I mean we’re talking mile high gifts from drawings, art, sweets- you name it. All this stuff adds up to thousands of dollars of hard earn fans’ money that, ultimately, when we’re in certain places, we can’t even take it with us. If we’re in Germany we can’t take all of these gifts home with us because we can’t bring it or fit in our bags. It just got me thinking- if you want to give me something don’t buy me chocolates because I can’t eat it. Not because I gotta keep my “girlish” figure, but because I don’t want you spending your hard earned money on gifts for me. If you want to do something for me as a gift get an Arm the Animals t-shirt and then you’re donating to a cause that makes me feel good and is important to me. But you’re also receiving something, you’re actually getting something in return that you get to keep and wear and have. I really wanted to create a trend where the fans are spending money and it goes somewhere that it actually matters and doesn’t sit in a green room in the middle of Germany going to waste. That breaks my heart because I look at the amount of work and effort that the fans put into it and if we can direct that attention to a charity or a cause then we’re really doing something good. Together.
The Boots Campaign obviously is very dear to my heart because so many people donate to it and it’s a big passion for soldiers and for men and women who have put their lives on the line for this country and for other people. I got to meet people who worked at Boots who are wonderful human beings and you walk up to them and notice that they are missing an arm or a leg and they are the ones running the organization. They’re not guys who are CEOs of other companies that got brought on board, they’re actually men that have served who have lost a limb and they’ve created a wonderful campaign where people buy boots a shirt or a hat and a percentage of that goes directly to families and to the disabled. People like Lou Diamond Philips and other people who have recognition have really gotten behind this and are hands on with it. I spend a lot of time with them and working with them, this is another really great charity.
*Photo Credit: Kristiina Kaunisaho*
The other one that is really important to me right now, which is just getting off the ground, is a charity that I created from the ground up called the Truth Campaign. This is something that I have thought about for a long time ever since I went to the Sundance Film Festival for the first time. I saw a massive amount of stuff that celebrities were receiving from different corporations and I looked at the bags of gifts from Levis to Nintendo, to Facials from Kiehl’s, $30,000 dollars worth of stuff for free because corporations want to put these on celebrities to get their products out there. But there’s only a few celebrities that can do something with a product. That’s a very rare occurrence so you’re essentially just getting, getting and getting and there isn’t really a return. It’s not a mutually beneficial relationship and I just felt ugly and disgusted. I had all these bags of stuff (and this was 8-years-ago and I didn’t have the resume or attention that I do now with Supernatural) and I wanted to do something in return, so I wrote a bunch of thank you cards. I said one day I’ll figure out how to give back and make sense of all this stuff you gave me and give you guys a return on your investment, so to speak. I had this idea of helping kids with cancer and building a cancer wing or a rehabilitation center that was sponsored by Nintendo or by Kiehl’s, a place where these kids who were recovering from Chemo could go to purify and get this stuff out of their system.
I went into the Huntsman Cancer Institution with my business partner and sat and talked with the board. They informed us that in order to do this it was going to cost somewhere around $15 million dollars. So I was shooting a little bit high in the charity world. I just had a successful campaign raising $60,000 and that was a big deal to me. I said, “My God I was able to raise $60 grand,” so when someone told me it was $15 million dollars to help children recover from cancer, I knew getting corporate sponsors is a huge task and everybody at that time was like ‘Who’s Travis Aaron Wade?” I had no name credibility really in the business. I just always sat on this idea behind, “Okay what could I do?” and “What could I create from the ground up?” All of a sudden it hit me this past year, doing all of these conventions, and being on movie sets. I started seeing what fans felt there was value in and obviously there’s always been huge value in what actors wear on a TV show, specifically for Supernatural, you know like Jensen’s jacket that he’s worn for 10 seasons. They have a dozen of those jackets and obviously one or two of those are going to go to some museum one day but all of the others ones, I wondered what happens to those. He’s worn it at some point in the show and maybe Jensen wants to keep one for himself but there will still be stuff left over. My dog tags that I wore as Cole or Jared’s beanies that he wears at conventions, these are known within the fandom.
Fans look at that and whenever they come up for photographs they say, “I love your scarf, can I have it?” I say, “Well, yeah maybe one day. Right now I kind of love it but I’ll send it to you sometime.” This just triggered me; why not create an eBay type charity for celebrities? Where we take these articles of clothing that were worn once or twice and are obviously not going to wear again to another convention and they’re just sitting in the closet, why not auction those off to the fans. Maybe the money raised can go towards helping a fan get to a convention, get photographs or autographs. I have noticed a trend when I’m doing autographs and fans come up to me they’ll “I bought my convention ticket and a photograph with Misha and Jared but I couldn’t afford a photograph with you, I’m so sorry.” And it broke my heart that they were apologizing to me because they couldn’t buy a photograph with me so I wanted a find a way to fix this and that’s where Truth, Sundance, and all this stuff kind of came together. I partnered with one of the fans, this wonderful woman, Alicia, who has been so phenomenal, and I went through all of my clothes from movie sets that I’ve been allowed to keep. We rented out a storage shed and now we’re just slowly advertising on Instagram until we get a website set up and people will bid. Items have been going for hundreds of dollars. We’ve turned around and taken that money and were able to buy a young lady a plane ticket to go to New Jersey con. We were able to help fix someone’s car that broke down, so that organization specifically related obviously to Supernatural but hopefully one day we can build it to the point where it is as big as eBay but where we can get stuff from Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts. We can have celebrities say, “This hat I’ll never wear again, send it to Truth,” we’ll auction it off and use that money to help people make their dreams come true. We want to be able to filter out who genuinely needs help and who’s dream we can make true.
We don’t have the membership or the following that Arm the Animals does. Truth is very small- we have a couple hundred followers and it’s pretty much me and Alicia on the ground trying to help the fans. That to me has been exciting but obviously the bigger we grow the more people we can bring on board- the more people we can help. With that me, my buddy of thirty years, Brett Williamson, Phil Waller, created the Progression Foundation. This is an actual 501(3)(C) that way we can legally take funds and give 100% of those funds to Arm the Animals, to Truth, to The Boot Campaign. It’s a way for us to be able to legally and federally take money and do what’s good with it and we’re held accountable for that. I have all these charitable companies and charities that I’m involved with but I never had my own charity, so that’s The Progression Foundation.
Lastly, and this one is very important to me, is Band for Arms. Nick Mendoza who is a vet created this, and he’s gotten all the members of the military to wonderfully donate their uniforms and then Nick will cut it up and make little bands with truly creative designs. He’s created Supernatural-esque bands, Star Wars bands, but they all have messages of hope and they all come from service men’s uniforms. When you receive the package you get information about the service men who donated, how long they served, what branch they were in, just a little bit of information about them. I’ve partnered him with Arm the Animals; I’ve put him in touch with the Boot Campaign so they can collaborate.
Obviously, we’ll all come together and put up an auction as one to help each other out. Next year we’re hosting an event called, “Pets for Vets.” We’re going to launch a dog shampoo line that is organic and helps dogs with skin disorders. We’re going to do the dog line first and the cat line second. But we’re going to do a really big event the last two days of Coachella and the first two days of Stage Coach. It’s going to be a four or five day event in Palm Springs and we’re going to invite some of the top celebrities to come out and help us promote having pets go to vets. One of the big issues, and you know this, in the Supernatural fandom is depression and anxiety and I’m fully supportive of Jared’s Always Keep Fighting Campaign and we want to get them involved. For me personally, I know that my fellow veterans suffer from really bad depression and anxiety and with the success of all these campaigns we want to host a really epic event with some high-end corporate sponsors where people gather and help service men who are depressed find a pet and help them get taken care of. To give them some light out of the darkness. I am shooting for the launch and activation March or April 2016 so we’re getting started now and are looking at very specific corporate sponsors that are really into the charitable world and want to be a part of this incredible opportunity to spread love and kindness.
You can find more information about these charities on Travis’ website: www.travisaaronwade.com