Members of church production teams are uniquely interesting individuals. While they all have a calling to use their audio, video, lighting, and musical expertise to serve God at one or more local churches, many are also working professionally at local theater and concert venues, or even traveling as road techs, or “roadies” for performers in every musical genre and at every level of success. This can be an exciting way of life, but also a tiring one, with considerable risks for health and safety, but typically without consistent health care or insurance coverage.
Knowing this, Paul and Courtney Klimson, founders of The Clinic: A Roadie Advocacy Group, set out to empower and heal roadies and their families by providing resources and services tailored to the struggles of the touring lifestyle.
Based in a historic building in downtown Niles, Michigan, near the Michigan/Indiana border, the clinic, which opened in 2021, provides much-needed assistance to production professionals in-person, online, and via additional channels. The Klimsons selected the location based on many positive experiences they had when visiting family in the area, as well as its proximity to Interstate 80, a major tour bus artery. In addition, there are major airports a short distance away in South Bend, Indiana and Chicago. Should someone need care, they would either be travelling through soon, or they could get there easily.
The Klimsons say that after being in the performance industry for two decades, working on shows for almost no pay, or working on major tours or major televised productions, they were exhausted by the weight of the hurt and pain they’d witnessed and they knew something had to be done.
“It never got easier. There was never a season that wasn’t rough on our marriage,” they recall. And this was a pattern they saw in those around them. “There was never a balance between gig life and home life. The themes were prevalent for years: exhaustion, isolation, substance abuse, mental health issues, broken marriages, broken families. And the longer we stayed in this environment, the more we saw there were very few services created to directly impact the roadies, and even less to help with their families back home. Honestly, we couldn’t find one that encompassed everything or even close.”
In July of 2019 Courtney started writing and the organization started to take shape. In October of 2019, they bought a commercial building in Niles, which they knew would be the headquarters for The Clinic. The curiosity from the industry started to appear, and conversations began that have continued to this day. Conversations that confirmed that The Clinic was wanted, it was needed, and that others wanted what the Klimsons wanted: a healthy home life, and a healthy road life.
To get a better idea of what issues needed to be addressed, and which ones were a priority, the Klimsons polled 400 roadies. Of those who responded, the most common issues/difficulties cited were:
Relationships: 62 percent
Finances: 58 percent
Isolation: 57 percent
Communication: 54 percent
Mental Health: 45 percent
Substance Abuse: 18 percent.
With that in mind, The Clinic set out to help in every way possible, providing thousands of dollars to roadies in dire need of financial help, as well as:
– Therapy recommendations, both local to Niles and a network of therapists around the country through Backline.care.
– Financial counsel, from unemployment paperwork to Medicaid and all the grant applications
– Resume review
– Peer support
– Sobriety counselling.
These services go toward building the “pillars of service” The Clinic plans to provide. The pillars include but won’t be limited to:
– Partner support groups for the adults left back home when significant others go on the road.
– Kids support groups where the idea is to network families so they can support each other.
– Service projects to support everyone working on a tour.
– Emergency care. If you have ever been in another state, or worse, overseas and had your partner get in a car accident or end up in the hospital because of “X,” or the house floods, or some other emergency, The Clinic can be a backup.
– Communication tools to provide ways to maintain healthy relationships during long times of separation.
This pillar encompasses much of our vision, starting with physical location at 205 East Main St in Niles. MI. The three-story commercial building, when fully complete, will house five individual lofts with private bathrooms, a sober bar, two soundproof therapy suites that are technologically connected to make it possible for both in-person and virtual therapy, a pro audio and pro lighting mix/visual suite, offices, commercial kitchen, and family dining area.
There’s a 20-plus-mile bike/walking path along two rivers less than a block from the building. There’s a concert pavilion and a theater, a brand-new gym across the street, a Pilates studio a few doors down, an affiliated therapist across the street, a new distillery and a new brewery blocks apart, a multiplex cinema, restaurants that cater to vegans and people with gluten intolerances, and more.
The message of The Clinic is: Come to us. Share a family meal. Partake in our services. Or simply rest and recover.
As noted above,The Clinic is building a local therapy program with a therapist who has offices across the street. The therapist specializes in tools that aid in healing from PTSD, trauma, and drug/alcohol addiction, and patients can be triaged on-site at The Clinic.
Building a unique network
In addition to care provided on-site, the Klimsons are building a network through organizations like Backline.care. They have 130-plus therapists around the country that have all been vetted, and all understand the difficulties of the touring community. Resources such as life coaches, wellness partners, and nutritionists are readily available to help build healthy lifestyle plans.
This pillar is underway, with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Zoom meetings already underway and other facets being built, which will be available via a password-protected page on The Clinic’s website, including:
– Secure database of roadies who want to be networked with other roadies in recovery
– Platform to share stories of touring and recovery
– Individually tailored Relapse Prevention Plans
– Access to counsel from professional sobriety coaches.
The sobriety program, Roadies in Recovery, follows the AA traditions and is led by a roadie with more than 33 years of sobriety under his belt.
How you can help
As members of the house of worship community, our instinct is always to help others. According to the Klimsons, the most helpful thing at this point is to tell them how you can help. What are your strengths? What kind of time can you commit? What area of service do you feel most comfortable working in?”
“We’ll plug people into our system in whatever way possible,” they say. “The more help, the further we can push the mission forward. We believe that 80 percent of people coming to The Clinic to receive services will be through referrals. So spread awareness that we exist. Pay attention to your colleagues. If they’re struggling and you know we can be of help, send them our way. That’s how every one of the people who have been helped to date have found us – they’ve been referred.”
How you can get help
People who need help should email firstname.lastname@example.org. These messages go directly to the COO, who will be able to connect you to the appropriate party.