It took me two weeks to figure out how to blog this.
I intended to do it the weekend of the event. But I found that I couldn’t. This event was like no other I ever attended. I was happy to see friends I’d made in this fandom, happy to see Nick because given the past couple months, showing that support in person meant a lot to me. But also, because this cause is extremely personal to me. I’ve said in a prior post at one point but, I understand what Angel and Nick had gone through more than I wish I did. I have a sibling who’s been lost to drugs and mental illness for decades who I’ve tried to help but, for my own sanity, my own safety, had to finally pull away. On Our Sleeves is such a beautiful cause, trying to find these issues when they first take root in children, prevent victims in the future by getting them help as early as possible.
I was there for the pre-show event and of course got a moment with Nick, AJ, Lance Bass, OTown, basically in another event boybander heaven. But instead of basking in it, I hugged Nick and thanked him for doing this, praising the cause. Aaron’s twin Angel was mingling before the show and honestly we had a beautiful chat. I commend her for her strength because honestly it was beautiful. She’s never been the Carter for the stage so the way she hosted this with Lance, given her own emotions?
It’s something else.
The event itself was really a wonderful tribute to Aaron. Before the show started, it was Aaron’s music playing in the background. On the left when you first entered, there was a memory book asking fans to write about Aaron so that one day it can be given to his son, Prince Lyric Carter. Towards the end of the show they played a video of an unreleased song of Aaron’s that he used to perform in a better, clearer moment of his life called Recovery.
There were multiple acts, like David Archuleta, Ryan Cabrera, OTown, Brad of LFO and each of their sets were great. Especially the LFO/OTown one. But then came AJ who after putting on an incredible performance of Electric, announced Nick. For anyone who knows me, I’m always recording those brand new, first time performances. I was standing right in front of where Nick was singing Hurts To Love You. I had my phone in my hand. But I couldn’t do it. It felt wrong so, I shoved it back into my hoodie pocket. Call it trite or cheesy, but I wanted Nick to see me showing support rather than me, recording such a moment on my phone.
I struggle for words to describe witnessing this in person. Nick put his heart and soul into this performance. You could literally hear his love for his little brother and his pain and his grief. I don’t know how he did it. I was crying by the end of it. Where he simply thanked everyone, stated he loved us and left the stage. Only for AJ to come back and be so brutually honest about his addiction struggles that I was sobbing yet again. I’m a little teary remembering it. I still haven’t rewatched the livestream online because it invokes a lot of emotion in me.
One thing AJ said that really stuck with me, is “just because you do bad things, doesn’t make you a bad person”. I appreciated the recognition that yes, Aaron hurt people, he did do bad things but those things were a result of his addictions, of his mental illness, of the darkness that eventually took over. Aaron’s once managers, Lori Knight and Johnny Wright both took the stage at different points acknowledging this and all the things said online as of late.
Every act told stories about Aaron, shared memories. Because everyone there at some point knew Aaron and loved him. The event raised over $150,000 to try and make some real change in the world of mental health. While life drove me elsewhere at one point, I was seeking a degree in psychology and it’s something I’m to this day passionate about. The energy at that event was like nothing else, fans there just sending love and support to everyone involved. Nick came back on, saying how Aaron was his little brother, of course he loved him.
Anyone who doubts that, honestly is an idiot in my opinion.
At the end, everyone got on the stage and sang Imagine, a song Aaron used to love to sing. Nick simply stated he wants everyone to come together. I want the same. It was an emotional night in so many ways. If Aaron could see this, I hope he knows the impact his life had. His family loved him so much, that much was easy to see. Easy to feel. Angel stated she wants it to be an annual event, to keep the cause going.
If she does, I’ll go every time I can.
You can still donate to honor Aaron, Angel or Nick here at On Our Sleeves. Help other kids who are struggling.