Awareness Explained
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We are often asked what the significance of the the colors or how did the whole awareness ribbon thing start anyway?   The concept started with the Iran hostages back in 1979.  Inspired by the song, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree" which was made popular by Tony Orlando in the 1970's, Penne Laingen, wife of Iran hostage Bruce Laingen, tied a yellow ribbon on a tree to honor her husband while she waited for him to be released.   Her story was featured in the press and soon Americans across the country began to do the same in support of the hostages.  As time has gone on, the yellow ribbon has evolved to represent American Soliders and a way to show support for their fight overseas in both Desert Storm and the current war in the Middle East.

In the 1990's, AIDS activist were inspired by the ribbon movement, and choose Red as their color. The color red was chosen for its "connection to blood and the idea of passion -- not only anger, but love, like a valentine."    It first came to the public in 1991, when Jeremy Irons was seen wearing one on his lapel at the Tony Awards.   Soon the "Red Ribbon Project" was started and red ribbons were worn by many in Hollywood to raise awareness about this terminal disease.

The next major movement to use the awareness ribbon was Breast Cancer.  The New York Komen Foundation Race in 1992 started handing out Pink ribbons to race participates.  The next year, Este Lauder president, Evelyn Lauder was invited by Self Magazine editor Alexandra Penney to particpated in National Breast Cancer Awarenes Month issue as a guest editor.   Penney and Lauder came up with the idea to use a ribbon to raise awareness and Lauder promised to had the ribbons out at the company's cosmetic counters across the country.  Originally they were to work with Charlotte Hayley, who battled breast cancer,  who was using a peach ribbon to raise awareness. She sold them with a card saying, “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is 1.8 billion US Dollars, and only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon”. However, Hayley rejected the offer saying that they were too commercial.  After discussing opportunities with Lauder, Hayley and the lawyers, they came up with a "new" color. The new color of the ribbon was pink and became an international symbol for breast cancer awareness.

Now many causes and groups have "Awareness Colors" associated with them.  Lance Armstrong started the movement to wear silicone yellow wristbands/bracelets that had the message Livestrong on them with the proceeds going to cancer research.

On a personal note, as a survivor of a traumatic event like Sexual Assault, wearing my sexual assault bracelet is a sign of strength for me.   Unfortunately, there is still a stigma in society about being a rape survivor.  I have had people ask me the reason I wear the bracelet, and I see it as a way to make people aware of what happened to me.   The more people hear about something, the more it becomes accepted.  Thus it then makes it easier for victims to get help.   So I wear my bracelet to help break the silence.   - Pam Swider, co-founder of Women For Hope



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