Bracelets make difference, fashion statement


Alakananada Mookerjee

What does a perky student on the SDSU campus have in common with an elderly cashier at Wal-Mart and a redoubtable Brookings motor licensing official? They belong to different age brackets, have different tastes in music and have different vocations in life. But all three are united in their support for a noble cause.

Something that started as pure fund-raising for cancer research soon bloomed into a fashion trend. Live Strong wristbands – the brainchild of cycling champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong – have taken the nation by storm ever since they made their appearance in June 2004.

Created by the Lance Armstrong Foundation and sponsored by the sports goods manufacturer, Nike, the wristbands were originally estimated to sell five million. But sales records soon far surpassed that figure. As of date, more than 33 million have been sold worldwide. Single-day sales soared past the 900,000 mark on Feb. 11, 2005 with the appearance of Armstrong and Sheryl Crow on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

President Bush wears one. So do several celebrities such as Bono, Alec Baldwin, Bruce Willis, Robin Williams, Matt Damon and Ben Stiller.

The bands mean different things to different people.

“I first heard about them from friends. I thought, ‘I’ll get one because it’s a cool thing to wear and also because I support donations,'” said freshman Sarah Madison.

For others, it is about sporting a fan talisman. Marla Leitzke, who bought over 30 bands, said that she bought some for herself and some as gifts for her family.

“I wear the band because I am an Armstrong fan. But we have cancer in the family,” she said.

Thus, these bands are many things rolled into one. They are cool. They are casual. They are comfortable. They are trendy. Last, but not least, they support a charity.

The Sioux River Cyclery, the downtown outlet known for its two-wheelers, started selling the bands just a month or two after they were launched.

“We started selling the Live Strong wristbands right after the month they came out. We sold about 2,000 last year alone. We sell each for a dollar, though the postage on each band is about 30 cents,” said Robb Rasmussen, owner and manager.

They are made of rubber and come in close to a dozen shades and color combos. The first-generation bands that rolled out of the Armstrong Foundation are yellow. Because of their popularity, other organizations too, came out with copycat wristbands that are available in numerous other shades.

These bands include pink for breast cancer research, red for AIDS research, a combination of white and blue for tsunami relief, gray for “Jesus Loves Me,” and many, many more.

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