Blue bracelets red hot

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Anyone who's ever tried to get a teenager to part with five bucks knows it's not easy.

Sounds like the kids at Charleswood Junior High are different, though.

From a school population of around 500, 404 students (as of yesterday) have paid $5 each for a little piece of rubber that doesn't really do anything other than fit around your wrist.

That's at first glance, anyway.

In reality, the little blue bracelets with the words Never Alone on them are doing something most people would think is impossible: getting a few hundred 12- to 15-year olds all pulling in the same direction.

A week from tomorrow, virtually the entire student body at CJH will pack the gym to watch their team take on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a game of basketball. At the same time, they'll be cheering the fight against cancer.

You see, the price of admission for the game is one of those blue bracelets, the brainchild of Blue Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer.

Bauer, battling throat cancer, came up with the idea as a fundraiser for Cancer Care Manitoba. The bracelets and their message are also meant to serve as inspiration for anyone whose life has been touched by the disease.

It's our own version of the yellow LiveStrong bracelets inspired by cyclist Lance Armstrong.

The Bombers have already sold more than 1,000 of them, and the official launch is still a few weeks away.

The kids at CJH are obviously way ahead of this fashion trend.

Because when Joanne Hodgkinson, who teaches phys-ed and math there, came up with the bracelet/basketball connection, they jumped all over it.

"I wasn't sure what to expect," Hodgkinson said. "Now I'm kind of overwhelmed by the kids' support."

Hodgkinson, the wife of Bomber trainer Ross Hodgkinson, sold 300 the first day.

"When a whole school comes together like this ... it's just unbelievable," she said. "Someone says, 'I'm not paying five bucks for that,' and someone will quickly say, 'But the $5 is for charity. The basketball game's just the extra.' That's really good to hear."

Needless to say, the two kids in the school who've survived cancer bought a bracelet.

A 13-year-old girl whose dad has the disease picked one up and left a donation at the same time.

Then there's the story of the Buchanon boys, Troy and Reid, who lost their mom to cancer. The school held a charity game in honour of her last year, when Troy was at CJH.

He's moved on to high school, but younger brother Reid is at the school now, and the plan is for him to present the proceeds to Bauer at the end of the game.

The Bomber boss, who'll find out during the next few weeks how he's responded to treatments, is determined to be there.

"To hear what the students have done at Charleswood Junior High is very heart-warming, to say the least," Bauer said in an e-mail yesterday. "The support, I know, will be greatly appreciated. My plans are to be in attendance to show my appreciation."

Over at the Bomber office, it sounds like the city's football fans are starting to catch on.

People will come in to buy season tickets, and by the time they hear the story behind the bracelet, they're plunking down an extra $5 for one.

At the CFL coach-of-the-year luncheon last month, more than 300 were scooped up, including a few by Saskatchewan head coach Danny Barrett, whose mother is a survivor.

"This thing's just gaining momentum on its own," Ross Hodgkinson said.

Just wait until the Bombers put their marketing muscle behind it. The 10,000 bracelets produced so far won't even be enough to outfit the east side for the home opener.

"We'd love to be in a position to keep ordering more," Jerry Maslowsky, the team's sales and marketing boss, said.

Count on it.


Videos

Photos