Students arm selves for charity with silicone bracelets

Leslie Schelat

Credit: Beth Rankin

They’re the snap bracelet of the early ‘90s and the plastic bangle of the mid ‘80s.

They’re bright, colorful and trendy, but this time they support charities around the world.

Or do they?

To the untrained eye, Americans may look like a socially conscious group. One glance up someone’s arm may show support for Tsunami victims (blue and white), Multiple Sclerosis (red), Lupus (purple), global AIDS and poverty (white).

However, what many people, including those buying the bracelets, don’t realize is that they aren’t always supporting a cause by wearing its colors.

A Google search of “silicone bracelets” brings up thousands of sites selling and producing the bands.

For example, at, pink bracelets are sold in support of breast cancer. An informational page states “a portion of proceeds from … all Breast Cancer Awareness products goes to cancer-related charities.” In this case the questions consumers should ask are how much money is donated and to which charities?

On the same site, only four types of bracelets — breast cancer awareness, support our troops, cure paralysis and W.W.J.D. — are said to benefit charity. Despite the fact that many others feature colors and words used by national organizations on their own bracelets, the Web site does not publicize them or publicly provide monetary support.

Many silicone bracelets are also sold on eBay. The Lance Armstrong Foundation specifically asks that its yellow Livestrong bracelets not be sold online; however, they are the readily available bracelets on the auction site. Other bracelets are up for auction, but in smaller numbers.

When buying what some have dubbed “cause bracelets” on eBay, asking the seller if profits go to charity is the only way to validate where money is going. Unfortunately, some sellers offer no


“Sorry, no answers. What kind of business do you know that gives up its suppliers?” said “Rottduc,” the name one seller uses, via e-mail. “Rottduc” auctions multi-colored LiveStrong bracelets. But the official bands are only offered in yellow.

Retail stores like Kohl’s, WetSeal and even Wal-Mart also sell silicone bracelets.

At Icing by Claire’s, these bracelets are produced by the store brand in colors such as pink, purple, yellow, red and blue and with words like “courage,” “knowledge” and “independence.” The bracelets are hot sellers, said Mosella Sanders, an Icing employee.

“I think it’s more for fashion,” Sanders said. “Younger kids buy them.”

The difference in these bracelets is that they benefit no charity. But their widespread appeal shows this isn’t always a concern.

To order bracelets, Laurie Styron, junior analyst at the American Institute of Philanthropy, a watch-dog group that monitors charity’s spending, recommends contacting national charities directly.

“If you’re going to buy a bracelet online,” Styron said, “the one question to ask is how much of my money is going to go to the cause? Any group that can’t answer that question, I would be wary of.”

Contact social services reporter Leslie Schelat at [email protected].