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Weis fund wristbands popular, help unsure

Jack Thornton | Friday, September 16, 2005

Following a trend first popularized by Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong Campaign, the gold wristbands created to raise money and awareness for Hannah and Friends – the nonprofit foundation formed by football coach Charlie Weis and his wife Maura – are rising in campus exposure.

But ambiguity remains about just how much of the wristbands’ cost goes directly to the charity, named after the Weis’ daughter Hannah, who was born with global development delays.

While LiveStrong guarantees 100 percent of its proceeds will benefit cancer research, the package of the Hannah and Friends wristband indicates that only a portion of the $2 purchase will benefit the Hannah and Friends Foundation.

Hannah and Friends executive director Kevin Kaplan said he wasn’t entirely sure what portion of the money made from each wristband directly supports the charity.

“It really depends because it’s different,” Kaplan said. “We don’t actually produce the wristbands, so we don’t know how much they’re sold at. A separate company handles that for us, but it’s different prices based on how many they buy, that kind of thing.”

The Hannah and Friends bracelets are produced by Forever Collectibles, a sports and entertainment memorabilia company based in New Brunswick, N.J.

“We’ll sell [the wristbands] to the distributor at anywhere from a dollar to $1.50,” said Carl Bassewitz, a representative from Forever Collectibles. “Obviously, the higher we can sell to the distributor, the higher we can give to the foundation.”

According to Bassewitz, Forever Collectibles does not profit from the sale.

“We’re giving almost all of the proceeds to charity. What retailers do with [the rest of the money], I don’t know,” he said.

Officials at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, the primary campus retailer for the wristbands, were unclear as to how much wristbands sold there benefit the foundation.

Bookstore manager Sally Wiatrowski was unable to give an exact figure.

“You know, I don’t know [how much goes to charity], said Wiatrowski. “It comes to me at a set price with the proceeds already built in, so I don’t know.”

The Hannah and Friends wristbands were started to help create awareness as well as generate money for the foundation and South Bend’s Logan Center, which offers programs and activities for people with disabilities, Kaplan said.

The Hannah and Friends organization is “dedicated to providing a better quality of life for children and young adults affected by Autism and global delays,” according to the group’s Web site.

Freshman Pete Checki bought a wristband at Meijer the first day it came out.

“I know it cost $2 [to buy], but I don’t know how much of that goes to charity – maybe 50 percent,” he said.

More than 50 percent of a total sale going to a charity is valuable, said Jim Paladino, an assistant director at the Center for Social Concerns.

“For something like a wristband, that’s not bad at all,” Paladino said. “Any direct donation is going to be better, but the trade-off is, ‘Can you get someone to give you $2 and take the full profit or can you take 75 cents from somebody off the wristband?'”

As for the Relay For Life-produced LiveStrong wristbands, whose entire proceeds are donated to charity, Paladino explains that somebody is making up the difference.

“It probably means that the Relay For Life had the costs for making the band donated, so the cost is coming out of one person or corporation who’s making the wristbands, and not the customer,” he said.

Kaplan said this was not the case for the Hannah and Friends wristbands.

“When somebody buys [a wristband] some of the cost goes to pay for production and the rest goes to Hannah and Friends,” he said.

In fact, many wristbands sold online only guarantee a 10 percent donation to charity.

Freshman Scott Ogren, who owns a blue cystic fibrosis wristband, said wristbands do more than just raise money.

“The charities are getting money plus recognition,” Ogren said. “People come up to me and ask what it is and I say cystic fibrosis and it’s good for awareness, because [cystic fibrosis] is not overly well-known.”

Ogren had not heard of the Hannah and Friends program until his friend told him about them.

“My parents bought a bunch of them,” Ogren said.

Other students aren’t so sure about the recent wristband fad.

“You’ve got people who have six different colors just to match what they’re wearing,” senior Chris Kepner said. “Are you really thinking about the cause or are you just into fashion?”

Paladino said the wristbands have a positive effect despite their status as a trend.

“My gut is that it’s still best to make the direct contribution, but if this purpose is not just to make a contribution but to raise awareness then it’s not a bad deal,” Paladino said.

Direct donations can be made at hannahandfriends.org.