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A story about a yellow rubber band

Posted Aug 27 2009 11:24pm

In 2004, when theLance Armstrong Foundationwas still relatively small,Nikegot in touch. They said something along the lines of, “hey, we thought we might make a load of yellow rubber bands to show our support for you, and we’ll get all of our sports competitors to wear them, and we’ll give you 5 million of them, and you can sell them for $1 each and raise money and raise awareness”.


The LAF said “hey, thanks, Nike people.” The LAF thought (or at least Lance Armstrong thought) “Sell 5 million yellow rubber bands? That’s not going to happen.” (I may be paraphrasing a little here, but you get the gist.)


So, the athletes wore the yellow bands. And people got it. And people bought the yellow bands. And the LAF sold the yellow bands, for a dollar each. So, the LAF made some money, and people got to know about the LAF, and people got to show their support for the LAF. So far, so good.


Fast forward to 2007, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation - a bigger beast now - is supporting Proposition 15, a constitutional amendment which authorises the use of $3,000,000 to support theCancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Sadly, there’s a senator who isn’t going to support the amendment and just won’t budge on it. Happily, the LAF has the email addresses of all of the people who’ve bought a yellow band. So the LAF sends one email to all of those people. And the senator starts to get emails, and phone calls. The senator and his people last about 24 hours. Then they call to say he’s changed his mind. And Proposition 15 goes through, and $3,000,000 goes to cancer prevention and research.


I’m telling you this little tale because I think it perfectly illustrates what happens when good people have a good idea at a good moment. The good thing grows. And it keeps growing.

Lance Armstrong describes the yellow band as “a small idea that resonated”. And it’s resonating still. There are something like 80 million yellow bands on wrists around the world today.


Here are Lance and Rosa Melvin Caird, who opened the conference, wearing theirs.


(Jocelyn Augustino took the photo. ©Jocelyn Augustino 2009)


Here is Professor Groesbeck P. Parham, M.D. of theCIDRZ Cervical Cancer Prevention Program in Zambia, wearing his.


Here are Bailey Borzecki (left) and Mona Patel of theLAFwearing theirs. (Can you spot Mona’s?) These brave souls have been being relentlessly helpful for 3 days solid now, and they are still that smiley. Amazing.


Here is Dr Nelyda Gligo of the Panamanian Coalition Against Tobacco, wearing hers.


Here are Jeff Chertack and Rachel Henderson ofOgilvy Public Relations Worldwidewearing theirs. (Jeff and Rachel have also been doing the relentlessly helpful thing. Thanks, guys. You’ve been fantastic.)


And here I am, wearing mine. Actually it’s my Dad’s and I’m going to keep it, and send him one from here, because I think he’ll like that. (Rachel took the photo.)


(If you don’t have one, and you want one, just leave me a comment and I’ll bring/send you one. Dad, Mark, I’ve got you covered already.)


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