Silent No More
IN AMERICA’S NOT-so-distant past, there was a time of blissful and quiet ignorance. Some would say the 1950s was the climax before the fall of this silent era. It was a homogenous time, when women were expected to be housewives and men breadwinners for the family. An individual’s role in this world was unquestionable and very clearly defined. There was charity, but primarily the kind that conjures up images of 1940s era black-and-white films, a women’s auxiliary and a cause that was to be triumphed from a distance, while wearing crisp white gloves. There were a great number of taboo topics, and if they were to be discussed, it was done in a whisper. Disease, poverty, human rights violations, reproductive rights, sexuality, hunger, abuse and addiction were unmentionables and the mere thought of wrapping an awareness message regarding any of these issues around a silicone wrist band would be enough to send an appalled women’s auxiliary running for cover.
Clearly, in the days of old, awareness was not necessarily a part of charity. Perhaps the silence lasted for too long because by the 1970s, almost everything was open for discussion, and by the 1980s it was open for discussion on TV and mass media. This need to speak has not dissipated over time and, in fact, has grown. Today, there is a deluge of discussion coupled with donation. The Giving USA Foundation reported charitable giving in the United States reached a record $248.52 billion in 2004. People want to band together, show solidarity for a cause, express the personal impact it has had on their lives and receive a gift for their donation and literally wear it on their sleeve, or perhaps on their wrist.
Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong bracelet campaign proved the great impact a promotional product can have in not only furthering a single cause, but in the fundraising sector across the board. Len Hornstein, CEO of Avaline, Parsippany, N.J., a supplier company which offers an array of awareness products, commented on what he believed the current upsurge in awareness and related promotional products could be attributed to. “I think the biggest influence was Lance Armstrong and his iconic yellow bracelet,” he said. “I think they [the fundraisers] realized how influential a popular athlete or musician can be for cause/awareness fundraising. More than anything, these actors are able to get youth involved in society’s issues. More than anyone, the young want to imitate what their idols do and wear.”