Waldorf, Md. — On Thursday, September 23, 2021, 20% of sales from Foster’s Grille customers who mention Unity Bands will go to local COVID-19 frontline heroes and researchers. When the founder of this local nonprofit project set a goal to donate $10,000 to COVID-19 response in December 2020, he was not sure what to expect.

Unity Bands, an all-volunteer project, selling customized wristbands and other branded merchandise surpassed $11,000 in donations in August 2021. “It’s amazing what we collectively put together over the last few months,” says Unity Bands’ founder, John Schirrippa. The donations benefited local COVID-19 funds including Baltimore Washington Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. More than 2,000 bands were shipped to 14 U.S. states, as well as overseas to the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Italy, with wider reach on the horizon. Schirrippa and his team partnered with local business owners and civic groups to host an array of fundraisers including a Bowie Baysox Unity Bands giveaway.

The idea for Unity Bands came to Schirrippa in March 2020 as stay-at-home orders started going into place. Mr. Schirrippa is a Defense Department civilian and active member of the Annapolis-Anne Arundel County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), holding an M.S. degree in Emergency Services Management.

In December 2020, Schirrippa worked with a Brazilian graphics designer to create 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 hoped that will carry us through to the other side. Fight: We are at war with COVID-19 and 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 reason for the green color. In January 2021, Schirrippa’s cousin, Peter Caserta, a renowned chef, and business owner, passed away due to COVID-19. Schirrippa vowed to continue Unity Bands efforts in his honor.

Now that the initial donation goal is met, Schirrippa plans to continue the effort. “Even though the U.S. is drastically different now than in early December 2020 with life returning to normal for many, the invisible threat is still moving around us. The variants are a problem, there is a nationwide nursing shortage, and secondary illnesses caused by COVID-19 are being studied. There’s going to be a long and nasty tail associated with this pandemic. And as we exit this dark tunnel, I am reminded that a lot of people did not make it to the other side,” he stated on the Unity Bands Facebook page, “We will have a bigger impact. Several things in the works including additional sports giveaways and restaurant givebacks, and a 501(c)(3) application.”

Schirrippa also recognized that supporting response and research takes a whole community approach. “We cannot rely solely on the government to find solutions to the COVID-19 problem,” he says,  “Partnerships with community-focused people and having more volunteers will be vital to success.” Since January, Unity Bands has partnered with several local civic groups, restaurant owners, and realtors to increase brand awareness and surge donations.

More information on Unity Bands can be found at unitybands.org.

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