'Live Strong' wristbands a hit among politicians, movie stars

Posted: Tuesday, August 03, 2004

AUSTIN John Kerry wears one. President Bush has one, too. So do several movie stars.

One of the hottest fashion trends in America is the ''Live Strong'' yellow wristband produced by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the cycling superstar's cancer-fighting organization.

Since the fund-raising effort started in May, the charity has sold 7 million of the rubber bands for $1 each and it plans to sell 1.8 million more. Nike donated the first $1 million, and proceeds go toward programs for young people with cancer.

Sales easily surpassed the $6 million the foundation initially hoped to raise. The wristbands can be purchased at www.wearyellow.com.

''It's been an overwhelming experience,'' foundation President Mitch Stoller said. ''I think everybody, from average Americans to celebrities, are getting the message of courage and hope.''

Armstrong overcame advanced testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain before putting together one of the most astonishing athletic feats of the past decade by winning a record six Tour de France titles, all in a row.

Armstrong was given only a 50 percent chance to live in 1996 but has won every Tour de France since 1999. He has inspired cancer survivors around the world and linked himself to the traditional yellow jersey worn by the Tour leader and champion.

The foundation timed the fund-raising campaign to coincide with this year's race, which Armstrong won July 25.

Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president, wore his wristband while campaigning this week and at the Democratic National Convention. Kerry had a cancerous prostate removed in February 2003; his father died of complications from cancer in 2000.

White House spokesman Taylor Gross said Bush also has a wristband and supports the Armstrong foundation.

Foundation spokeswoman Michelle Milford said the group appreciates the candidates' support but will avoid any political debate.

''The way we fight cancer is a bipartisan issue,'' she said. ''We want support from everybody.''

Milford said foundation officials have been keeping track of celebrities wearing the wristbands. Bono of the band U2 and actors Alec Baldwin, Bruce Willis, Robin Williams, Matt Damon and Ben Stiller have been sighted wearing them, Milford said.

The wristband had a noticeable presence at the Tour de France as well.

''A lot of his competitors were wearing them,'' Milford said. ''Cancer doesn't pick teams.''

The biggest spike in sales came during the race. The foundation sold 25,000 in Paris on the race's final Sunday alone. Another 400,000 were sold over the foundation's Web site over the next three days.

But the popularity has brought out profit seekers as well.

The online auction site eBay has several listings for wristbands for sale at inflated prices. One listing said the online sale could help the foundation raise cash, but there is no guarantee the money will be sent there, Stoller said.

The foundation is trying to steer buyers away from secondhand purchases.

''We don't want people buying these and trying to profit,'' Stoller said. ''That's not the intention of this campaign.''

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