"I have been a fan of the Tour de France," she said. "You become a fan of Lance Armstrong when you are a fan of that race."
LIVESTRONG bracelets were introduced last May in honor of Lance Armstrong to raise money for cancer research, as well as show support for individuals living with cancer. To date, profits from LIVESTRONG bracelets have raised approximately $30 million for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Cancer research is extremely important to Essner. Three years ago, her 8-year-old daughter, Kelsi, died of cancer.
"In going through what we went through as a family, we know that the only way to find a cure is research and to research you have to have funds," she said. "There are not enough government funds so the private sector has to help."
Following the success of the LIVESTRONG bracelets, other foundations have jumped on the bandwagon to raise funds through awareness bracelets. Pink bracelets support breast cancer research; red bracelets encourage blood donation; red, white and blue support U.S. troops; and another set of red bracelets support the Cardinals Care program.
The Chaffee Future Business Leaders of America organization has used the rubber wristband trend to benefit their partnering charity. "The March of Dimes is the big organization that FBLA supports," 17-year-old FBLA President Suzanne Reischman explained.
For $2, people can buy the baby blue bracelet for "saving babies together." The club donates the entire proceeds to the March of Dime.
And the bracelet sale is quite successful, according to Reischman. "We have 83 members and over three-fourths of them have the bracelets," she said, adding that several non-members, teachers and community members have also purchased the bracelets.
The bracelets are also quite popular on college campuses, according to 20-year-old Sikeston resident Kellee Manley, who attends Southeast Missouri State University.
Although she admits that she doesn't wear her bracelet all of the time, Manley does wear it for a cause. "I wear them just because I know people who have had breast cancer," she explained.
Reischman, who wears several bracelets, also has personal reasons for wearing each. The popular yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet was her first, which was given to members on her softball team by their coach.
"I wear a pink one for my grandma because she has breast cancer and to support her because she made it through it," Reischman added. She also wears a bracelet that is available in multiple colors to support a friend from Scott City who has cancer.
Although Reischman admitted she didn't know the actual meaning behind the bracelets when she began seeing them, she thought they were just a trend, similar to the thin 'jelly' bangles of 2003.
But she was quick to explain that, to her, the bracelets have a cause. "It has a lot to do with real stuff that happens," she said. "Whoever made them is making a lot of money off of them."
Although the money raised from the bracelets is commonly earmarked for a foundation, some fraud does occur. Therefore, consumers are encouraged to purchase their bracelets from the official charities' Web sites.
For instance, the LIVESTRONG bracelets are so popular that there is a three to four week shipping delay on all orders, the Web site reports. While these items may also be found on eBay, it is often for several times their original price, with none of the proceeds earmarked for charity.
And although it is only a dollar, it all adds up, as seen by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. "Sometimes people think that a dollar doesn't matter," Essner said. "But when you see the volume that one dollar donations can make, you see that it makes a difference."
Reischman agreed "every little bit counts." She added not only are the bracelets for a good cause, but they also encourage everyone to become involved. "You don't have to be rich to have one," she noted. "It shows that helping out isn't all about money."
These bracelets can be found at some major department stores, as well as several web sites. LIVESTRONG bracelets may be ordered online at www.laf.org.