Everyone wants the COVID-19 pandemic to be in the rear-view mirror. People crave for the day when they can attend concerts, sporting events, festivals and family engagements with others. A new nonprofit based out of Anne Arundel County is doing its part to make that a reality.
Unity Bands is an all-volunteer project designed to support COVID-19 response and research efforts and to improve community morale during the pandemic. All proceeds raised from the sale of these customized wristbands and other branded merchandise benefit the University of Maryland Medical Center’s COVID-19 response efforts and the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s research efforts.
The idea for Unity Bands came to founder John Schirrippa in March 2020 as stay-at-home orders started going into place. An Arnold resident, Schirrippa is a Defense Department civilian and active member of the Annapolis-Anne Arundel County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
“The gravity of the situation hit me when the streets cleared, highway signs urged people to stay at home, and office parking lots emptied,” Schirrippa said. “I felt that what we, as a society, had worked so hard for was all in jeopardy, threatened to be taken away by an invisible threat. If you look at the tragedies of our time including natural and manmade disasters, the local communities generally rally together well. People help each other. Differences are put aside. Resources pour in. And customized images and symbols are created to unify the local community.”
While he volunteered with CERT at the Odenton COVID-19 donations center, Schirrippa knew he needed to do more. In November 2020, Unity Bands became a reality. A Brazilian graphics designer created the memorable, green Unity Bands logo representing the nonprofit’s ethos: hope, fight and unity. Hope: No matter how bad things seem to get, there is always hope, and it is hope that will carry us through to the other side. Fight: We are at war with COVID-19 and as of February 2021, there is still more fighting to be done. We must continue to fight this disease, and that means taking proper precautions all the time. Unity: We are all in this together, which is the reasoning for the green color.
The goals of Unity Bands are to raise $10,000 for COVID-19 response and research efforts and to create a global sense of unity. As of January 2021, Unity Bands had donated almost $1,000 to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. More than 200 bands have been shipped to nine U.S. states, as well as overseas to Brazil and Italy, with wider reach on the horizon.
On Sunday, February 7, Unity Bands hosted its first promotional event. Super Sunday was a virtual event hosted on the Unity Bands Facebook page, coinciding with the big football game. The goal was to put up big numbers in donations to the Unity Bands cause. There was a pregame show, hourly updates and goals, and a halftime show provided by award-winning rock group Sly 45.