Armstrong's yellow bracelets sell out

Sales raise funds for cancer research

July 24, 2004|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Even as Lance Armstrong races for another yellow jersey in the grueling Tour de France, the five-time winner is doing for jewelry what his soaring popularity has already done for cycling and cancer awareness.

Millions of his fans are sporting bright yellow rubber wristbands inscribed with Armstrong's "LIVE STRONG" motto as they wildly cheer the Texas-born cancer survivor, who is in position to win his sixth consecutive title this weekend.

The bracelet, which sells for $1 at cycling shops and sporting goods stores, is the brainchild of the Lance Armstrong Foundation to collect money for cancer research. In the last week or so, almost 6 million of the bracelets have been sold and supporters continue to inundate shop owners around the nation with requests for them.

Performance Bicycle Shop in Parkville sold out in a week. Race Pace Bicycles in Owings Mills said hundreds were gone within a couple of weeks.

"We sold through about a thousand of them in about a month," said John Posner, a mechanic-salesman-cycle enthusiast at Mount Washington Bike Shop, where customers have lingered for hours to catch various stages of the race. "They're huge right now. We get three or four people in here every day asking for them. It stinks now because we have to send people to the Web site to back-order them. We're waiting to get another shipment.

"With the race going on and Lance Armstrong being a cancer survivor, people are interested in supporting that," Posner said.

It's not exactly the same IT-fashion statement as Madonna's Kabballah-inspired red string around the wrist, but officials with the Armstrong foundation say they've been forced to re-order the yellow bracelets because of high demand from customers who are rooting for Armstrong through each stage of the 2,105 miles and 21 days of racing.

A new shipment is expected to arrive next month, said Britney Puryear, project manager for communications at the Armstrong foundation.

Puryear said 2.2 million bracelets have been sold through the Web site, www.laf.org. Close to 4 million have been sold in retail stores, with the help of Nike Inc. The foundation's goal was to raise $6 million.

"I think there are 10 million cancer survivors in America right now," Puryear said. "So many people can identify with it. They either know someone with cancer, have a family member who had cancer or they had cancer. This is one way to support Lance and cancer survivor programs."

So how popular are the bracelets?

Every fashion statement has to have its star supporters, of course. News reports say race car driver Dario Franchitti has a yellow bracelet and so does his wife, actress Ashley Judd.

The Tonight Show has been handing them out to audience members. Armstrong's Tour de France competitors are wearing his bracelets.

And for those who are still trying to snag one of those hot bracelets, the Internet auction site, Ebay.com, is still offering them up for $1 even though someone in Los Angeles is hawking three for $7.99.

Renee Faison of Owings Mills had no idea she was so hip when she bought two bracelets recently for her and her daughter, Audrey. A member of the Baltimore Bicycle Club, Faison has been cycling for more than 20 years and racing for three. Her husband, Kevin, who also cycles, bought one, too.

"This is the sixth year Lance is hoping to win," Faison said. "That's a big challenge to do it six years in a row, especially after his cancer. It's just support for him and his cause."

It's also a way for Armstrong fans to join him in his journey to do something never before accomplished.

"I mean, what he's done is an amazing feat - beating cancer and then winning the Tour de France for what will be six times in a row," said Jeremy Longley, operations manager at Performance Bicycle Shop where customers are still requesting the yellow bracelets. "People want to live that moment with him."

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