WALDORF, MD. —John Schirrippa sat in his home office in early December 2020, hosting a virtual launch party for his new nonprofit. There were seven family members on the Zoom call. Morale in the U.S. was in the gutter as COVID-19 vaccines were not yet available. Schirrippa ended up getting kicked out of his own Zoom call. In his absence, Unity Bands’ digital marketing correspondent, Dave Rattiner, declared that $10,000 in donations would be a reasonable goal to support COVID-19 frontline workers and researchers.
Six months later, this grassroots, all-volunteer, nonprofit exceeded the goal and Schirrippa decided to continue the effort to have a broader impact.
The story is not just THAT they reached the goal, but HOW they did it.
You can trace this episode back to a May 2021 when Schirrippa’s sister and Unity Bands’ international correspondent, T, literally taking cover in a bomb shelter in Israel as rockets rained down on Tel Aviv. When the dust settled, life returned to normal there. She caught wind of a business owner, Juliette, in East Hampton, New York hosting raffles for charitable causes. T took the leap, reached out to her, and explained the Unity Bands story via Facebook Messenger and asked if Juliette would consider hosting a raffle for Unity Bands. Over a week went by, so T figured it was no luck.
But then Juliette responded. She hosted a raffle dedicated to Unity Bands and raised $750. John could not believe when he heard this news. He had no idea any of this was going on. He was not involved with the planning. It just happened. And this what he envisioned for Unity Bands all along. That people would spring up and support the mission without him asking.
Unity Bands’ strategic advisor, Khalil Garriott, prophesized that T would be a critical player for Unity Bands back in January 2020. And it turns out that he is their resident Soothsayer.
Another interesting angle is that Schirrippa talked about a new vision for this nonprofit project after $10K with their communications director, Becky Soper, in mid-June. “Eradicate COVID-19 from the face of the planet.” “Perfect,” Becky said, “don’t change a thing.” A week later, Juliette sent Schirrippa a note with the donation, “Let’s eradicate this terrible virus that has taken way too much from us.” You can’t script this stuff.
Juliette lost her husband to COVID-19 earlier this year. It broke Schirrippa’s heart when he heard that news. But out of the darkness, comes the light. “Forces for Good,” discusses what makes high-impact nonprofits great. The authors mention how sometimes if you’re working on a nonprofit mission that people can connect with, an angel investor will appear to help you out, whether it is writing a check or donating time. And that is exactly who Juliette turned out to be. An angel investor.
This news is truly unreal. A seemingly long-shot idea about selling wristbands in November 2020 and the quest for $10K in donations turned out as it did.
Unity Bands is an all-volunteer project, selling customized wristbands and other branded merchandise to support COVID-19 funds in three U.S. states including New York-Presbyterian. More than 2,000 bands were shipped to 14 U.S. states, as well as overseas to the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Italy, with a 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 minor league baseball giveaway.
The nonprofit will be hosting a virtual fundraiser, “Birthday Bash,” in conjunction with Unity Bands’ first birthday on Saturday, December 11th on Facebook and Instagram. There will be several incredible musical performances from bands hailing from New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland. More details can be located at unitybands.org