Rhymes, reasons vary for wristband
Some say that despite their popularity, proliferation of "message" bands may be diminishing their meaning.
By SHANNON TAN
Published April 18, 2005
[Times photo: Scott Keeler]
Ty Smith, 7, and his brother Trenton Smith, 10, show off their colorful collection of silicone wristbands recently at their home in Clearwater.
Ty Smith struggles to explain the meaning behind the 10 bracelets he wears on his wrists.
His mother, Frances Smith, prompts him: The yellow one is for cancer and the pink for cancer awareness. Green is for "Save Our Earth," blue for "Peace On Earth." Then there's a pink Adidas band, a red Supercross racing band and red, black and pink Nike bands.
Ty, who is 7, can't keep up. "I don't know what the bracelets are for," he admits.
But the Clearwater boy loves them. And he's far from alone. The silicone wristband craze started last May when Nike and Lance Armstrong's foundation launched the LiveStrong bracelet to raise money for cancer advocacy and research. Since then, a multitude of causes has spawned wristbands in all shades of the rainbow.
You can purchase bracelets to show support for victims of AIDS, breast cancer, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease. You can support U.S. troops, autism, Jesus, peace, blood donation, gay pride and medical marijuana. You can oppose things, too, like racism, bullying and poverty. You can even wear your politics on your wrists with "Bush-Cheney" bracelets or black "I Did Not Vote 4 Bush" bands.
Heck, why not bid on a white "Jacko is Innocent" bracelet on auction site eBay, so the British seller can fly to the United States to support Michael Jackson?
And there's always supporting yourself.
"To Thine Own Self Be True" is embossed on the inside of the $3.99 name bracelets sold by Craig Zucker, a 25-year-old New Yorker. "You can show pride in your name," said Zucker. "They're selling like crazy."
The explosion in "message" bands has diminished their meaning, some people say. And not all the money spent on such items goes to the cause they purport to support.
"As someone who's had cancer twice, I'm offended by the cheap sentiment," said Karla Jay, an English professor at New York's Pace University. "It's a cheap and easy gesture to be a fashionista. It costs less money and no time, whereas true caring for people takes a tremendous amount of time and energy and money."
Charities have had to contend with unscrupulous sellers who buy the bracelets and sell them online for a profit. And anyone can order custom-made bands featuring their own cause or message.
The Better Business Bureau says it has not received any complaints yet. The American Institute of Philanthropy in Chicago advises buyers to be aware of where their money is going.
Groups that raise money by selling trinkets tend to have high fundraising costs because of manufacturing and sales expenses, said institute president Daniel Borochoff.
It's also possible that people will stop supporting these causes after it's no longer fashionable to do so, Borochoff said. "Unless they really want the bracelet, they shouldn't be buying them - they should be making a contribution."
Heather Robinson, 17, said the bands help her display her identity. "I wear them for meaning," said Robinson, of Largo. "It shows what we stand for and who we are."
She wears the "Support Our Troops" band because her uncle and friend are in Iraq; the purple for her mom with lupus; the pink because her grandmother died of breast cancer, and the yellow LiveStrong band for her aunt with cancer. The beige band was created at church camp to symbolize that no matter how far you stretch your relationship with God, you'll always come back to Him.
The Lance Armstrong Foundation claims all proceeds from the more than 43-million wristbands sold go to cancer programs such as providing community grants. Borders and Waldenbooks donate the net proceeds ($1.60) from the $2 wristbands to CARE, but only $1 from 7-Eleven's $2.99 "Support Our Troops" bands goes to the United Service Organizations.
The rest of the proceeds are used for marketing and shipping costs, said 7-Eleven spokesman Kevin Gardner. More than a million of the camouflage bands have been sold since December, he said.
Tsunami relief bracelets are selling online for as much as $4.99, with only $1 going to victims of the tragedy.
"It doesn't seem right," said Yasodha Ratnasekera, of Wesley Chapel, who has sold 500 "Band Against the Wave" wristbands, with all proceeds going to tsunami relief in his native Sri Lanka.
Pace University's Jay wonders if gathering toys for children of the troops, for example, would have more impact than donning a wristband or slapping a magnet on the back of your car.
"It's the same illusion that if you recycle a bottle, you can cut down on pollution and then you get in your SUV," Jay said. "We want to see ourselves as good and caring, but we're really too busy to care."
--Shannon Tan can be reached at email@example.com or 727 445-4174.
[Last modified April 18, 2005, 00:52:13]
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