Cancer foundation, designer blown away by bracelet's popularity

Steve Bartlett sbartlett@thetelegram.com
Published on May 4, 2010
Cancer patient Doug Murphy of Seal Cove made the trek to the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Centre in St. John's Monday to purchase another Hope Bracelet, one of a number he's bought since they hit the market in early spring. The fundraising bracelets for the centre are proving to be a hot commodity, with customers having to wait up to 15 days after placing their order to receive one. - Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Planning to give a Sparkles of Hope bracelet this Mother's Day? Be prepared to wait a little while.

The Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Foundation, which is selling the $40 bracelets to raise funds, is experiencing unanticipated demand and there are more than 1,000 names on a waiting list.

In fact, it's had to enlist a U.S. firm to help a local company - Karlande Designs of Clarenville - fill the backlog.

"We never thought we'd get weekly shipments from both Clarenville and the U.S., and we still can't meet the demands," said Lynette Hillier, the foundation's executive director.

Planning to give a Sparkles of Hope bracelet this Mother's Day? Be prepared to wait a little while.

The Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Foundation, which is selling the $40 bracelets to raise funds, is experiencing unanticipated demand and there are more than 1,000 names on a waiting list.

In fact, it's had to enlist a U.S. firm to help a local company - Karlande Designs of Clarenville - fill the backlog.

"We never thought we'd get weekly shipments from both Clarenville and the U.S., and we still can't meet the demands," said Lynette Hillier, the foundation's executive director.

The Sparkles of Hope bracelets were unveiled April 1.

The original goal was to raise somewhere around $100,000 in a year, but Hillier said, "we did that in 10 days."

As of Friday, 30 days since the launch, the tally was $260,000, and the list of people waiting for them through Bogart's Jewellers - which is selling them at no cost to the foundation - was growing fast.

Hillier said she knew they had a unique product, but the demand is beyond what they ever imagined.

"It's been absolutely thrilling," she said, noting orders are coming from as far away as B.C. and the U.S.

The bracelet was conceived by Karlande Designs' Andrea Sharpe and her sister. They lost a sister to cancer two decades ago.

Her reaction to the success: "Completely, completely overwhelmed. Just completely blown away."

She said she's hired a student to help out, and has called upon friends to string bracelets.

As well, there is a group of volunteers in Placentia - where her sister lives - who have been meeting to do the same.

Sharpe is grateful to the public for their support and patience.

So is Hillier, who's also glad to finally have a product to offer cancer patients. She said people would often come into the foundation office asking if there was an item that showed their support for cancer care.

According to Hillier, they always struggled with that because the centre treats many types of cancer.

"I couldn't have a pink ribbon, I couldn't have a blue ribbon ... because it was too segmented for the patient population. So, when (Sharpe) approached us with this bracelet last spring and it represented all forms of caner that we treat here in the cancer centre, it was like, 'Ding! That really works for us.' And we can really see now how it works because everyone is calling looking for a Sparkles of Hope bracelet."

Each of the 20 colours of Swarovski crystals on the sterling silver bracelet represents a different form of cancer.

Bogart's expects to receive a new shipment this week and those bracelets will go to the more than 1,000 people who signed the wait list before the week of April 26.

Hillier said the next shipment for Bogart's will be towards the end of the second week of May.

Sparkles of Hope can also pre-ordered by phone or at www.cancercarefoundation.nl.ca. Right now, the waiting period is 15 days before an order is processed.

Hillier - donning her sales hat - says people planning to give one for Mother's Day should put their name on a waiting list and slip a note into the Mother's Day card saying a bracelet is on order.

Money from the fundraiser goes to the H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre and its affiliates across the province.

Hillier said it will be used to fund patient programs, a family support fund and equipment.

sbartlett@thetelegram.com