It was March 2020 and nationwide stay-at-home orders had just been put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time at home, John Schirrippa had an idea.
Schirrippa, an Arnold resident and member of the Annapolis-Anne Arundel County Community Response Team, created Unity Bands, a nonprofit organization supporting COVID-19 response and research efforts, while also looking to boost morale in the community.
“I was thinking about how to create a symbol, really just to draw people together,” Schirrippa said. “I didn’t do much with it until December, and then I started thinking, ‘Well maybe this is more than just an image. Maybe this is something we can sell and then raise money to provide support.’”
An all-volunteer project, Unity Bands primarily sells white wristbands with its logo, a green infinity symbol, as well as other unity-based merchandise. All of the collected proceeds go toward COVID-19 response and research efforts. The nonprofit has also teamed up with other organizations in the area, creating a couple of fundraising opportunities set to take place in June.
As of May 18, Unity Bands has already raised $6,000, which has been donated to various Maryland medical facilities, including the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center and the University of Maryland Medical Center and School of Medicine. Schirrippa hopes to raise $10,000 by the end of June, and a couple of events could help Unity Bands exceed its initial goal.
“I know that we’re going to blow past $10,000 with all the things that we have lined up,” Schirrippa said.
The fundraising began with a 50/50 raffle that started June 3 and runs for a week, sponsored by Stefan Holtz of Northrop Realty. Another opportunity arrives on June 18, when 1,000 unity bands will be given out to fans as the Bowie Baysox face off against the Akron RubberDucks in a home series in Bowie. This giveaway was made possible thanks to the Williams Home Team Gifting for Gratitude program, which seeks to celebrate local heroes.
“It's really been incredible to see how the community has responded, for a need that we all know is very important,” Schirrippa said. “Even though the crisis is winding down in the U.S., COVID is not going away. So I think, fundamentally, I would like to keep supporting the COVID efforts, as long as [organizations] are willing to partner with us.”