The front page of yesterday’s Appleton Post-Crescent (one of the local papers in our area) featured an article on those silicone bracelets that have become the hottest awareness building/fund raising item I’ve seen in years.
Around here, they’ve also been the most controversial.
The whole concept started when the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) created the yellow LIVESTRONG bracelets as a fund raiser in support of cancer research. More than 30 million of the bands have been sold. If you haven’t bought a LIVESTRONG bracelet yet, here’s the link – it’s a great cause. Celebrities wear them. Politicians wear them. People who have survived cancer wear them. People who are battling cancer wear them. Those who love the ones who are in the battle wear them.
Late last year we began to receive tremendous number of requests from organizations of all types to supply the bands to organizations in bulk (and in a huge variety of colors as each ‘cause’ has a different color) so they could be used for a variety of awareness and fund raising activities. If you’re unfamiliar with all the causes and their colors, the article does a nice job of giving you some background.
Shortly after we began to sell them, I received a handful of thoughtful, well reasoned e-mails from customers or prospective customers who were unhappy that we were selling the bracelets. They felt we were cheapening the LAF concept. There was concern that by offering bands to other organizations we were in effect diverting money from LAF to other places. It’s hard not to respect that point of view.
However, if you read the article it speaks to something I know first hand. My teenage daughter bought our first bag of bracelets from the LAF as my wife was preparing for her second bone marrow transplant (she’s my hero and is doing pretty well thanks, as is my other hero her donor sister). Everyone in our family wears them to this day. Yes, we bought them because we believe in what the LAF is all about, but there’s more to it than that. For a daughter, her brother and her dad, the bracelets offered a tiny chance to ‘do something’ – anything – about a situation we’ve got little control over (those of your who have been through something similar will know what I mean!). Further, wearing the bracelets strengthened our bond and created one between us and others who have faced similar challenges.
Is it any surprise then that someone might want to wear a pink bracelet to raise awareness for Breast Cancer, or a purple bracelet to raise funds for Leukemia research – or any other color for any other cause? While you can argue that we’ve reached bracelet ‘overload’ or that the phenomenon has diminished their effectiveness for the LAF, you could also argue that they have done an exponential amount of good. When you think about the amount of money and awareness the concept has raised for hundreds of worthy causes the impact is staggering.
I think the biggest impact – in the original concept and in all of its new permutations – is what these bands do for the people who wear them. They’ve made believing in something or supporting a cause – and telling others about it – cool.
They’ve given people the chance to ‘do something’.
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