Meet the Guest

Christina Trombino Founder, Director of Love More for Julius

After her brother Julius died of a heroin overdose, Christina Trombino started the nonprofit Love More for Julius to ensure his memory lived on. Julius, an incredibly talented musician, hoped to inspire people to love each other more through his music. Noticing the therapeutic value of music on Julius’s life, Christina and her organization now strive to build music rooms and bring music therapy to people in recovery.

Transcript

  • Trey Dyer

    Welcome, welcome, welcome, to another episode of Ready for Recovery. I'm your host, Trey Dyer. My guest today is Christina Trombino, but before I tell you about Christina, I need to tell you about her little brother, Julius.

    Julius was a musical prodigy. He was born with an exceptional ear and an immense amount of talent. He taught himself to play the drums before the second grade, and by the time he was in middle school he played the guitar, the bass, the piano, and a plethora of other instruments I'm forgetting.

    In fact, the song you're listening to right now was the first song he ever wrote. It's called “When the Night's Over.” He wrote it when he was only 13.

    He also had an excellent singing voice and by the time he got to high school, he was the lead singer in his band, Julius. As a high school student, Julius played shows all over New Jersey and the New York City area. Record labels were drooling at the chance to sign him, and he even got to open for the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato at a concert on Long Island.

    He was at the cusp of making it, but Julius also faced a lot of hardship in high school. He struggled with depression and he was bullied. He eventually turned to drugs. They were his way of self-medicating, a way to escape his problems.

    What started out as weed, turned into pain killers, which eventually became heroin. Julius developed a heroin addiction before he even graduated high school. He tried to get better and he spent the better part of the next three years in and out of treatment facilities and recovery homes, just trying to stay sober.

    He was able to find long-term sobriety while living in a recovery home in south Florida. He attended college down there during that time, and he even played his music at open mic night at a few coffee shops.

    After about a year of sobriety, Julius decided he wanted to move out of the recovery home and into the dorms at his college. He didn't tell his new roommates he was in recovery for fear of being judged.

    Around his 21st birthday, his roommates and friends wanted to take him out for a drink to celebrate. Julius relapsed that night. A couple of days later, Julius died from a heroin overdose.

    It was a tragedy for everyone who knew Julius, because he touched so many lives and inspired so many people. One of those people he inspired was his sister, Christina. After Julius died, Christina wanted his memory to live on by helping others who were just like Julius.

    Julius always wanted people to love each other more, and Christina thought of a way to do that. Christina started a non-profit organization and took the title of one of her brother's songs to name it. She called the organization, Love More for Julius, after his song, Love More.

    Love More for Julius strives to support people in recovery through music, and is starting to make an impact by bringing new forms of musical expression to people in New Jersey.

    Christina is joining us today to tell us more about Love More for Julius, and what they are doing to support people in recovery.

    I'm here with Christina Trombino, and ... Did I say that right? It's Trombino, right?

  • Christina Trombino

    Trombino, yep.

  • Trey Dyer

    We're happy to have you here today.

  • Christina Trombino

    Thank you. I'm happy to be here.

  • Trey Dyer

    Great. So, I guess I'd like to start the podcast by hearing about your brother, hearing about Julius, and I'd like to know what was Julius like?

  • Christina Trombino

    Okay. Well, Jules was my little brother. We were about three and a half years apart. I also have a younger sister, who is in the middle of us. She's about two years younger than me, and then he was about two years younger than her.

    Three kids. I'm the oldest of three. Julius was the youngest, and he was an amazing person. He was so kind and loving and smart and handsome and athletic and like, without even trying, he was great at sports, any sport he tried, he was so good at. And music came naturally to him. School came naturally to him. He enjoyed learning on his own. He didn't necessary love being in the classroom atmosphere, but he would take it upon himself to learn things on his own.

    So, he was just a very curious, but compassionate and popular kid. He had a lot of friends. Everyone loved him.

  • Trey Dyer

    Very cool. So, you said you were about ... How many years apart were you in age, you said?

  • Christina Trombino

    Like three and a half. Yeah.

  • Trey Dyer

    Were you guys pretty close all throughout your childhood?

  • Christina Trombino

    We were, through our childhood, like we'd always go on family vacations together, and our friends were all friends. We had a lot of family friends that me, my sister, and brother, all shared, but I never actually overlapped with him in school, so I never had to go to school with him, but we were close.

  • Trey Dyer

    What did Julius like to do as a kid? I know you said he was athletic and smart, and everyone loved him, but what were some of his interests growing up?

  • Christina Trombino

    Well, when he was younger, like before high school, he was a great football player, baseball, basketball. He was on all the athletic teams, always on the competition teams, and always the star athlete. He was so good at every sport. He also loved skiing. We'd always go on ski trips as a family. He would golf with my dad, and he also loved, like I said, learning on his own. He loved to read and write and he was very creative in addition to being athletic, which is, you usually have either one or the other, but he really had both, and he was brilliant at both.

  • Trey Dyer

    How did he get into music?

  • Christina Trombino

    Well, my dad was a drummer, so I mean, music has always been in our household. We always had a drum set in the basement growing up, and so Jules kind of took on the drums, and then by age six started. My mother put him into piano lessons, so at age six, he was playing the piano. By age nine, he was also playing the drums, which he taught himself by ear, and my dad kind of taught him some stuff. And then, by age 11, he was already writing and composing his own songs.

    But, I think he got into music because like when he played sports, he would experience some unfair treatment, and a lot of the kids were not able to play, and that really turned him off the sports. He didn't like seeing other kids being left out, and he felt it took the fun out of the game.

    So, even though he was able to participate, he just didn't like watching the coaches being mean to the other kids, or leave them out and not let them play. He was like, "It's a team sport. Everyone should participate," and he just didn't like the win-and-lose type mentality of sports.

    So, when it came time for high school, when he had to choose a sport or music, because sports was so competitive, and it was very time-consuming, he did choose music. And that's kind of how he started seriously dedicating his time to music, was when he kind of dropped sports.

  • Trey Dyer

    So, around that time, as well, through previous conversations that we've had, and just my own research, it seems like he started to find success in his music career, right? He started to gain momentum in New Jersey and the New York area. Maybe you can talk about how he started to find success in music, like what was seen as his big break?

  • Christina Trombino

    First of all, just to go back a little bit about how he even learned all this music and how he got to be so amazing, is he taught himself everything. He taught himself how to — yes, he went to piano lessons, but he never really read the music. He taught himself everything by ear. Same thing with drumming. He listened to the music, listened to the beat, taught himself by ear, taught himself guitar by ear, learned to sing. He was in chorus at school, and then he taught himself — this is like the amazing part — he could play guitars, drums, the keyboard.

    He could sing at this point, and now he's writing songs, you know, all through high school, writing lyrics, because he loved to write and be creative, and then he taught himself how to use recording programs on the computer, like Pro Tools, so he learned to engineer his own music. That was a huge point where like, he didn't need anybody to be successful. He could write, produce, record, play, and then engineer the entire song.

    Most of the songs are on the website, all done 100 percent by him. Those songs were amazing, and he really wanted to share them with the world. Then, he got a band behind him called Julius and it was a live band that would just ….

    They would play all these awesome shows. I guess managers started hearing him and record labels just wanted to talk to him, and my dad was his manager at the time, so he was being asked to play showcases because his band was being seen. It was just really crazy at the time. He was, like always invited to meetings and dinners. All the record labels wanted him. He was even flown out to California, actually, to write with a famous song writer called Toby Gad.

    He was asked to be on the Voice, which he had to turn down. Drugs were always in his life at this point, so that's kind of why his music never got to be what it could have been.

    But, I guess ... you said, "What was his biggest break?" And I'd say, like the biggest thing he ever did was, he got to warm up for the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato at their concert in Jones Beach, Long Island. It was the biggest crowd he ever played for and it was very exciting, definitely the peak of his music career.

    In addition to that, actually, he played other venues, though, like the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, and big New York City venues like where music legends got their start, such as Kenny's Castaways, The Bitter End, Mercury Lounge, but yeah, Jones Beach was ... That was an insane if you're ... and he was only 17 years old.

  • Trey Dyer

    Keep this as a frame of reference for our audience. This is all while he is basically a high school freshman to junior.

  • Christina Trombino

    He wrote his first song at age ... I don't know ... 12? It's called “When the Night's Over,” so that's actually still a crowd favorite, still a fan favorite. You can hear that one online, “When the Night's Over.” He wrote that at probably age 11, and recorded it by age 12, and then at age 17 he was opening up for the Jonas Brothers, so, kind of came a long way, just a couple of years.

  • Trey Dyer

    “When the Night's Over” is actually the song that we opened with to our audience. That was the song that you heard in the beginning. Personally, what is your favorite song that your brother ever wrote?

  • Christina Trombino

    Oh my gosh. So, my favorite song — there's so many to say. I love them all. “When the Night's Over” I love because it is the first song he ever wrote, so it has sentimental value. Obviously, the song “Love More” I love because it's catchy, it's fun, it's poppy, and that is a big reason why we named our foundation Love More for Julius, because of the song.

    And if you listen to “Coming Down,” that's a song that describes Julius' life, and I love that one, too, because it kind of just reminds me of him and it really gives insight into what he was feeling and what he went through during his life.

  • Trey Dyer

    We want to play a little bit of Julius' music for our listeners now, and this song is “Love More.” And this was actually the one that you said was the inspiration for your foundation, Love More for Julius.

  • Christina Trombino

    Yeah.

  • Trey Dyer

    Yeah, so let's take a listen to that.

    (singing)

    Man, you know, the song is just great. He's so talented and for being such a young age, it's just amazing that he could write and compose this kind of music on his own.

  • Christina Trombino

    Yeah, he was seriously a music prodigy. He was just a child prodigy. He was so good at everything.

  • Trey Dyer

    So, transitioning a little bit, let's talk about how drugs came to be in his life? When did Julius first kind of get into drugs? How did that come to be?

  • Christina Trombino

    I found this out after he passed away. My parents told me this, but I guess he had always told my parents that even from a young age, he would feel very sad, and he didn't know why, but he didn't like it, and apparently he would pray to God to make it better.

    So, I guess he always kind of had this sadness within, kind of like always felt a little bit depressed, that normal kids did not feel. He kind of always had a little bit of depression, but I'd say that depression really started to affect his daily life, was in his freshman year of high school, around age 14, because he was bullied. Every single day he was bullied by senior boys, and he was only a little freshman, and eventually, his friends were tired of being by Julius' side and being taunted because they were associated with Jules. They kind of left and Julius was left with no friends, and the depression really hit him.

    The school administration did not take a strong stand against bullying at that time, so he had no one to turn to, no friends. My parents tried to help him as much as we could, but you know, if the school's not doing anything and the kids aren't stopping, there's not much to do, so that's when he turned to weed.

    And then he turned to pain killers to deal with his emotional pain, and eventually that turned into heroin.

  • Trey Dyer

    How old was he ... So this was all around 14? I mean, did he go from when he was a freshman? You think this was throughout high school, then? Was it gradual or did it seem to happen very fast?

  • Christina Trombino

    I think the depression ... I think that happened very quickly, because it was overnight. He was popular and had a million friends. He was the star freshman. He had the hottest girlfriend of the freshman class, and the senior boys were so jealous of him because of that, and they would bully him and overnight, it felt like that he just went from the most popular kid in school, to having no friends, so that was definitely immediate, and that was really traumatizing for him.

    That really affected him through the rest of high school because he no longer had those friends. I don't think I could ever forgive people for leaving me when all these kids were bullying me, so I don't blame him for that, but, like I guess the drug use, the escalating, definitely was not immediate.

    The heroin was not in the freshman year. I actually don't know. I think maybe when he was living in the dorm at NYU during the summer course, maybe age 17, was when the heroin started. But the pain killers, probably sophomore year, probably started with weed, though.

  • Trey Dyer

    It's pretty well known that mental health and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand, you know what I mean? It's something close to 60 percent of people with mental health disorders have an accompanying, co-occurring substance use disorder, and vice versa.

    I know you've talked about depression. Did Julius ever face any other kind of mental health challenges during this time?

  • Christina Trombino

    Well, I think that like, with depression, he went to see therapists, and he was given medication, but he never stuck to the regimen, and he would always kind of self-medicate, and I don't know if he was on the right doses, because if he was on the right doses and it was working, then I don't think he would have to self-medicate.

  • Trey Dyer

    Can you maybe tell us the story about when things started to get serious with his addiction, when you started to see the behavior changes that indicated this is not a situation that's under control, this is a mental health challenge that he's going through?

  • Christina Trombino

    So, Julius did graduate high school, but I guess shortly after high school ended, he had no plans for college and no desire to go to college. Like I said earlier, he loved to learn, but he hated that school atmosphere, and he could've pursued music. I guess he desired the drugs more than anything — any future plans for him.

    So, that's when my dad took him to rehab, and sober living homes. He was in California. He stayed there for four months, and was doing amazing, and then he came home and he relapsed, and spent the next couple of years in and out of rehab and intensive outpatient programs and sober living homes. He was in Florida and Pennsylvania and New Jersey and just all over the place, but he kept relapsing over and over again, until this last year of his life, when he was in Florida. He was in a really great program. He was sober and doing well, and that was the last year of his life, when it finally worked for him and he maintained sobriety for about a year before he passed.

  • Trey Dyer

    What was he like during that year? You know, everybody talks about the difference between when their loved one was actively using, and then when they found maybe a period of time where they were sober and just how much it brightens up their life.

  • Christina Trombino

    Oh my gosh, he was like a different person. He was like the Julius I remembered when he was young. He was funny. He called me. He would joke. During the years when he was using, he never called me, and I was in college at the time, so I didn't know my brother through his high school years. I knew that when I came home from break, he was withdrawn, didn't want to hang out with me or the family, wasn't happy to be at family parties, like wanted to get away whenever he could to go be with the few friends he had to probably do drugs.

    So, when he got sober in Florida, and he was calling me, it was like a different person. He was so happy again, and always joking like he used to when he was young. He was hilarious, and he just had that light about him come back. I knew he was like happy and doing well, and honestly, I think the sun and the beach and the friends, and constantly staying busy. One of the things he did to stay busy was play music down in Florida at the open mic nights.

    All of those things, I think, really played a role into why he stayed and why he was able to stay sober for so long.

  • Trey Dyer

    And this was when he was in a sober living house in Florida, right? Then, what, he decided to move out of the house, or what happened when —

  • Christina Trombino

    Yeah. He was doing so great, and when you're first in the program, they don't let you really have a job or go to school or anything. They really just want you to focus on the program and being sober.

    So, he was still living in the sober living home in Florida, but then he started attending classes and was going to college, which was awesome. And he was studying therapy with — it's all come full-circle. It's so funny that he wanted to be a therapist and help others go through what he went through.

    I guess a few months into the college classes, he wanted to get out of the sober living home and live in the dorm. He wanted to be a normal college kid, so he moved out and he was only there one week, literally about a week. It was his birthday, and he was living with just some random kids, but they didn't know that he had addiction problems. He didn't want to be labeled or judged, you know, so they were like, "Let's go out for a drink for your birthday," And my brother couldn't say no, they're pressuring him — “Let's go. Let's go grab a beer,” whatever —and Julius was sober, meaning he didn't have any alcohol either for a year, because alcohol kind of made him want to do drugs.

    So, that night — that was the night right after his birthday, I believe. He had just turned 23 — and they took him out and had a drink or whatever, and he came home, and he took his last dose of the heroin, and it was laced. It was just so crazy, because he was doing so well, and it pisses me off because I wish he never moved out of that sober living home, but he really did feel like he was ready to be in a college dorm and be on his own.

    He felt he was strong enough, but any advice I can give to people would just be please don't do it. Even if you think you're ready, you need to have somebody there to support you, like a mentor. Tell your roommates if you're going to be in a college dorm. He should have told the roommates that he was an addict, and they would help him to not push him to go out for a beer.

    That's one thing I regret, that he didn't want anyone to call. I wish my parents had called and told the kids, "Listen, Julius is going through recovery and he's not allowed to drink or do drugs, so please be aware.” But he didn't want anyone to know that he wasn't "normal."

  • Trey Dyer

    Yeah, that's the saddest part about all of this, just how stigma can continue to drive addiction, because people are hiding the fact that they've overcome this awful disease just to make sure that other people don't judge them. It's just bad, so with this last dose, this was it, right, Julius overdosed?

  • Christina Trombino

    Yeah, he OD'd. I mean, he'd done it before, but you know, my parents have always found him. They were amazing, my parents. My mom even had a feeling the night when he OD'd in Florida and she was all the way in New Jersey. She just had a feeling, like he wasn't texting her back. She just knew. She was up all night, calling the roommates and stuff, and finally they found him.

    But she was right. Her intuition was right. But, the only thing that gives me comfort in his death is knowing, number one, that he's not hurting anymore, and he's not sad anymore, and he's not like struggling daily to stay sober because that was a huge struggle for him just to maintain sobriety, but also that he died doing what he loved. He loved writing music and that's what he was doing when he died.

  • Trey Dyer

    How did his death affect your family and affect the people that you love?

  • Christina Trombino

    It affected all of us. We miss him so much. And it affected the entire community. His funeral had an insane amount of people there. The church held like a thousand, and I know that there had to be over 1500 people there. It was so packed, the church, and people were standing.

    It was an amazing ceremony and an amazing way to tell him how much we all loved him, but everyone is still sad, to this day. To this day, every single day, there are social media posts about him. Our family will still get texts and stories and messages talking about him, and his soul lives on. His memory lives on. Everyone has been so great to keep his memory alive and it's daily that he's remembered.

    It's crazy, but at the time, I wanted to keep his memory alive, and I didn't know how to, except to start a nonprofit in his honor.

  • Trey Dyer

    I guess we can transition into that, now. You know, after Julius died, you guys decided to get proactive about the cause and start your own nonprofit. Do you want to maybe tell us kind of the process that happened?

  • Christina Trombino

    Yeah, I mean, honestly, like I said, it was right after he passed away that I decided I needed to do something with my grief. I don't know how to grieve. I still don't think I have grieved. I just knew I needed to do something. So for grieving, for me, was being proactive and working. It all came very naturally, the idea of Love More for Julius, because the song was titled “Love More.” When we were getting all the cards and when people were telling us stories and memories about him, like him being a loving, compassionate, kind soul was in every single person's memories, so I knew that the foundation had to do with Julius and how much he loved other people.

    And it all comes full circle, because that's the message we want to put out and tell others, is that we all need to love each other more. You've got to put yourself in another person's shoes, try to understand their perspective on life, and just have more compassion. I swear, if we all were more compassionate about one another and stopped being so selfish, and really just looked at other people and took notice that they needed help — it's just so sad, and it's because no one is caring enough about these kids and the feelings and noticing if they need help.

    We want to spread the message to stop the bullying. Actually, even more than the bullying, what hurts most is the complacency of the people witnessing the bullying. People like Julius' friends, who didn't do anything. That hurt him to the core, and we just want everybody to know Julius' story, and know that if you're witnessing bullying, stand up and do something, because you don't want that person to be depressed and, God forbid, feel bad when something bad happens, feel guilty.

  • Trey Dyer

    Julius' message, Julius' being, was that he was a loving, compassionate, caring person. I think that's a theme that you have popping up whenever somebody talks about him, so the name of the organization, fittingly took his song, “Love More,” you decided to name it, Love More for Julius.

  • Christina Trombino

    Yep, we decided to name it Love More for Julius, and basically what we wanted to do, besides tell his story, is that we wanted to use music because that was his passion in life. We wanted to use music as a way to prevent and heal addiction and kind of aid in the recovery process as an alternative form of therapy or as a hobby for people in recovery, so they could use music as a hobby like Julius did in Florida with the open mic nights, where it would be a sober event that we would put on, and like have an open mic night, or Karaoke night, or a band, but in a sober atmosphere, where people in recovery can go and feel comfortable and just use music as a space for that, for an event, learn an instrument, or use it as like a music therapy tool.

  • Trey Dyer

    So basically, the idea is to ... you know, you guys are trying to offer support for people who are in recovery is the number one goal, by honoring Julius' memory and his life, you're able to support these people through different initiatives, right, through bringing music to their lives, bringing different ways to get the message out and advocate for change at a national level.

  • Christina Trombino

    Well, yeah, we want to get to the national level eventually, yeah.

  • Trey Dyer

    Yeah, absolutely. So, I guess I want to hear also, are people doing anything in Julius' honor?

  • Christina Trombino

    Yeah, oh my God, so many people are doing things in his honor. I got a tattoo that says, "Love More," and then it seemed like everybody we knew did something like that. So there are tons of kids out there with Love More tattoos with his name, with something symbolic that meant something to them about him. But a lot of people got tattoos in his memory, more than I would have ever thought.

    Additionally, there were a bunch of songs written about him. A couple of his really good friends wrote songs about him in his honor, and ... oh, my gosh, there're so many things.

  • Trey Dyer

    Any songs that we would know, by chance?

  • Christina Trombino

    Well, Chrissy Costanza from Against the Current is an up and coming band. They're very popular in Asia. Her album's coming out like next month, and she's got like three songs on the album written about him. But she also covered his song “When the Night’s Over.” Julius inspired her to sort of start singing. Amazing. She's a phenomenal singer and I know she's going to be famous someday in the U.S. I've seen her play in the city at like Irving Plaza and Hammerstein Ballroom, so she's getting there, but her new album — you can look for it — it's coming out soon. And Against the Current is her band, and I know she wrote a couple of songs, but no, it's not going to be songs you know. It's from up-and-coming bands that are trying to get their start, that were just amazing, and wrote some songs about him.

    Other things that people have done in Julius' honor were several people last year ran in the New York City marathon with Love More t-shirts in his honor. Local stores have created bracelets, bags, jackets, in his honor that say, "Love More." There's a guitar pick that we made that say, "Love More." People around Basking Ridge will put Love More banners outside their homes in his honor, and a lot of people are being charitable in his honor. A few families are feeding the homeless annually in Julius' honor, and they'll wear Love More shirts and go out there and feed the homeless at different times of the year. So there's a bunch of families that are doing that, which is so nice.

    The biggest thing, I think, that is the most honorable, is my mother, who is not a writer. She's a realtor and she's amazing. She was inspired to write an entire musical play featuring Julius' 25 original complete songs. The play tells the story of his life and uses the songs to tell the story of his life. That's an amazing honor that my mom did for him.

  • Trey Dyer

    That's awesome. Tell us more about Love More for Julius, what you guys have accomplished so far, and what you're currently working on.

  • Christina Trombino

    Well, so far, in just about four months, five months, we started a program in New Jersey at the recovery high school. It's called, Prevention Links, Recovery High School, in Roselle, New Jersey.

  • Trey Dyer

    Can you just for our audience, kind of maybe tell them what a recovery high school is?

  • Christina Trombino

    Sure. It's a high school where high school students who have addiction problems, where they can go once they are out of their detox and/or treatment, that they can go to this special high school, so they do not have to go back to the same environment that sparked all the addiction problems. Like, you don't want to put the kids back in the same atmosphere that they had the problems in. This recovery high school is special so that the kids in recovery have a place to go and learn with other kids in recovery, too, and they're not back, surrounded in their previous terrible environment.

  • Trey Dyer

    Right, it gives them an opportunity to be surrounded by peers who have similar experiences and can support each other through high school, then.

  • Christina Trombino

    Yes. Actually, the good thing that a lot of people do not know, and since they are up-and-coming and there's probably only two or three in New Jersey right now, they're going to be coming out with a bunch more, I'm sure, unless we kick the epidemic, which would be amazing. I don't want there to be more high schools, but the thing is that the town's taxes pay for kids to go to these high schools, and they pay for the transportation, and a lot of parents don't know about that, and they don't know that this is an option.

    So, parents, this is an option for your kid. Speak with your town, and it's best to not put your kid back in the environment that they were in previously, because you don't want to trigger any of the things that trigger their drug use.

  • Trey Dyer

    Yeah, absolutely. Just tell us how you're working with Prevention Link, now.

  • Christina Trombino

    Okay. So Prevention Link has been an amazing partner of ours. They just opened their new school in Roselle, New Jersey, and they allowed us to come in, create a music room, which is the number one purpose of our foundation, create these music rooms. So we donated instruments to them, and weekly my partner Niki Sumka goes in — she's a phenomenal singer — and she actually wrote a song for Julius, too. Julius was her best friend.

    So, Niki Sumka is my partner and another founder of Love More for Julius. She's been a huge part of this foundation because she's musically talented. I am not. So, she's been amazing in helping with that aspect of the foundation, and she goes to Prevention Link once a week and teaches the kids music therapy. We're calling it a music therapy class where currently they're doing song writing to let out their expressions in a creative outlet and a healthy outlet versus like the traditional therapies.

    The music rooms are being created so these people in recovery have a fun, safe space to go and hang out, create music, and express themselves with other people in recovery.

    Music, besides being what Julius loved, is actually an amazing way to heal recovery, to heal addiction, and be used as another recovery therapy method. It is a cathartic activity. They're doing things such as song writing and drum circles, and all of those things help the person in recovery release their aggressions in a healthy way.

    We also chose music because it's a fun thing. It's like a fun activity or hobby if it's done in a sober environment that we can give and bring to these people in recovery. Like I said, Julius — this is what helped him maintain friends. He looked forward to going to his open mic nights in Florida weekly.

  • Trey Dyer

    That's really cool that you're taking something that was so important to Julius and almost giving it as a gift to people that very well — like these kids that you're helping, they are Julius. They're from the same areas. They're going through the same things. So, it's kind of nice that his memory lives on through that.

    What else have you guys done? I know you guys have earned your 501c3 status, right, so that you're a registered nonprofit organization in New Jersey?

  • Christina Trombino

    Yes, we are. We're a 501c3 nonprofit. You can find us on PayPal's giving fund. We're selling t-shirts and CDs through our website, or you can find them on eBay. It's awesome. So, you're tax-exempt, so anything you donate, it's tax-exempt, and you can find all that information on our website.

  • Trey Dyer

    All the money goes back to helping people that are in recovery, right?

  • Christina Trombino

    Yes. All the money goes to our foundation, which 100 percent of it, because everyone who works for my foundation, we're all volunteers. All of the money that you donate goes to buying the instruments or furniture, or whatever we need to create these music rooms. They'll go toward putting on these awesome events, like acoustic nights or karaoke nights. And they're going toward paying music therapists if they're not volunteering already, like Niki volunteers, but going toward paying these music therapists who teach at these recovery high schools, or sober living homes.

    Oh, and we're also accepting instruments or recording equipment as donations, as well. It does not have to be monetary. You can donate new or used instruments, sheets of music, music stands, equipment, anything you want. Honestly, we'll accept it all.

  • Trey Dyer

    Very cool. Have you guys done any fundraisers or big events yet, since you've earned your 501c3 status?

  • Christina Trombino

    Yeah, so we've had one acoustic coffee night, which was very successful. It was in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Niki Sumka actually coordinated the whole thing. We had a lot of Julius' friends play, and we brought in almost 100 people in that night, and we barely marketed it. It was very fun, and it was a sober night where everyone just kind of came together, enjoyed music, socialized, drank coffee, and we're hoping to put on many more of those.

    And not just in New Jersey. We want to make those nationwide and we want to make those nights a weekly Friday-night thing, so that people in recovery have somewhere to go to enjoy music or play their music.

  • Trey Dyer

    What are the plans for the future? I know that it doesn't just stop at music rooms and coffee nights in New Jersey. You want to take this on a national scale, correct?

  • Christina Trombino

    Yeah. All right, so in New Jersey, coming up we are hoping to partner with the YMCA in Somerset County — which is huge — and bring a music therapy program there, we hope.

    We are partnering also with Community in Crisis in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, which is my hometown, and we'll be putting a music room in there, and hosting a fun music night, hopefully monthly, actually, there.

    So that's coming up. We did create our first real music room in a sober living home in Dover, New Jersey, and that is in Julius' memory, because Julius lived there. So, that was a huge accomplishment just his month, actually, and we're hoping to bring a music therapist in there and give them a program to go along with their music room.

    But, yeah, for the future, we want to spread this nationwide. I want to start, though, by bringing it to the homes that Julius had lived in, in Florida and California. And if you are listening, and you are living in a sober living home, and are interested in having a music room there, or participating in one of these fun events, or putting one on for your town, please reach out to me.

    Everything's on my website, lovemoreforjulius.org, and you can reach out to me. I would love to partner with you guys because I feel like just having the outlet of music — like, I want everyone to have the opportunity to be able to play music — and you can find my contact information.

    My name is Christina Trombino, and the website is lovemoreforjulius, J-U-L-I-U-S dot org, and my email is [email protected] All the information is on the website: where to donate, how to contact me. Go to the website. You can learn more about our mission, and you can listen to my brother's music there, too.

  • Trey Dyer

    Very good.

    Thank you for joining us, Christina, and thank you, our listeners, for joining us for another episode of Ready for Recovery.

    I'm your host, Trey Dyer, and in lieu of our regular outro, we decided we're going to play one more of Julius' songs, so ladies and gentlemen, this is “Coming Down.”

    (singing)

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