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Looking cool for charity, or jumping on the fashion band wagon?

Byline: By Jenny Rees Western Mail

Despite the beliefs of cynical parents, children are obsessed with wristbands because they are charity-savvy rather than fashion conscious, according to experts.

But good causes should jump on this bandwagon now if they wish to raise vital funds, before the fad's bubble bursts.

The apparently ubiquitous rubber bands sporting charities' slogans have courted controversy, not least because their limited numbers have made them hot currency.

High resale values have even propelled some bands onto auction websites giving the vendors - and not the originating charities - profits of up to pounds 25 a band.

Charities also face competition from non-charity bands, without slogans, which are simply sold for profit.

Some schools around Wales have even banned the bands on health and safety grounds.

Next month the Children's Commissioner for Wales will launch two free bands in lime and purple with the bilingual slogan 'Everyone has rights'.

The Commissioner's staff claim that rather than young people seeing the bands as the latest craze, they are actually proud to support good causes, and are aware of 'fake bands'.

But John Makin, head teacher at Penrhiwceiber Primary School in the Rhondda, feels this particular fad could be reaching its finale.

'I've got a feeling the bubble is about to burst. The Year Six boys in the football team - the cool boys that everyone copies - have stopped wearing them because the younger ones wear them and it's not as cool any more,' he said. 'But it might be different in the next town or village. I would say around 80-90% of our school has one, and some have 10 or 12.

'Some children are very well informed about them and know which is for Africa, or the war in Iraq, racism or breast cancer. But they are also aware of the fakes too, so they are well aware if someone else gets the money for them.'

But when the bands first started appearing, peer pressure to wear the right band did mount.

'I've seen a few arguments over them,' he said. 'We found when they first came out that one or two children had them. Then everyone wanted them and they could have sold those for anything. There was a little bit of peer pressure to wear the right one.'

Sarah Lewis, co-ordinator of Backchat, the Children's Commissioner's email group, said they asked children for their opinions on the bands. 'They were clearly becoming really trendy and popular,' she said. 'We wanted to know more since there has been some controversy over them.

'Backchat members were very keen to stress that the message they conveyed was much more important than making a fashion statement.

'We were thinking of having wristbands produced ourselves. Not to raise money, but to get the message across that everyone has rights - including children and young people. The response we got through Backchat persuaded us to go ahead, so they'll be available in early summer.'

John Tobutt, head teacher at Gabalfa Primary School in Cardiff said some of his NASUWT colleagues had banned them because of the 'downside'.

'I welcome the fact that there are lots of children who are wearing their heart on their sleeve,' he said. 'But we did have one wristband taken out of a pupil's drawer, because some colours are quite prized because they are seen as being the ultimate in the wrist band collection.'

A spokesperson for Breast Cancer Campaign, which launched its own pink band last week, said, 'Wrist bands have raised the profile of different causes and that certainly is a good thing. It's really disappointing that others are cashing in because different charities will miss out on those vital funds.' Cycling legend behind first wristband: Lance armstrong is the man behind the first wristband - a yellow version bearing the motto 'Live strong'.

The Texan cyclist, who has won the gruelling Tour de France a record six times, recovered from testicular cancer in 1997 and launched the $1 bracelet to raise cash for cancer support.

More than 40 million have now sold worldwide.

Earlier this week the 33-year-old, who dates singer Sheryl Crow, announced he will try to win the Tour de France for a seventh time this summer before retiring from cycling and devoting more time to his children and the cancer charity that carries his name.

Find out more at www.laf.org. Colour-coded and multiplying fast: Some of the bands appearing in a playground near you:

Black and white - signifying anti-racism

Pink - breast cancer

White - making poverty history

Pink and blue - epilepsy

Yellow - cancer

Blue and white - tsunami relief

Blue - fighting child abuse, or beat bullying

AND 10 new wristbands launched this month include:

Weston Spirit - grey, with the slogan 'Life changing'

Anti-slavery- red, 'Human rights'

Watford New Hope Trust - orange, 'Hope for the homeless'

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust - green, 'Save the species worldwide'

The Toybox Charity - navy, 'Save street children'.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 23, 2005
Words:815
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