Exclusive: Haley Copes Creates Inspired Bracelets to Help 'Fight Back' Against Cancer
Haley Copes can be described in one word: inspiring. At age 12, the Waterbury, Conn. native lost her father to cancer. Then, just four years later, the disease claimed her mother's life. But, in the wake of tragedy, the extraordinary teen found the ultimate way to "fight back."
Last year, the 18-year-old John F. Kennedy High School student (pictured right) started her own Relay for Life team to help raise money for the American Cancer Society. The team, Teen Beans, has been successful in raising cash for the cause through creative efforts, but it's Haley's silicone 'Fight Back' bracelets that have really made an impact.
The initial order of 200 wristbands, which counter the controversial 'I Heart Boobies' bracelets, sold out in one week, and the charitable teen says they've been flying off the shelves ever since. In less than two months, the bracelets alone have raised $2,500 for the American Cancer Society, which is over half of the $4,000 the team has raised in total, this year and last.
Pretty amazing, right? We caught up with Haley to talk about the inspiration behind the bracelets, and how she and her team are continuing to raise funds for the charity that is so near and dear to her heart.
JSYK: Hi Haley! First, congratulations on all that you've accomplished.
Haley Copes: Thank you!
JSYK: We're very sorry about the loss of your parents, but what you've done is really incredible. What has helped you cope over the last two years?
Haley: For the first year, it was really hard for me to even mourn for my parents because I had moved into a house. Immediately after [I lost my parents], I moved in with these people and I hated it. I won't go into any details, but it was such a terrible home for me. So, if anything, I couldn't even mourn for my parents at that point because I was so shaken up from living in this house. I would say that my life actually started when I started living here at my grandparents'. I just remember that I would be sad every day, but for some reason, I was like, 'You know what? My parents are gone, but I can't bring them back, so I should keep them in my memory, but I shouldn't mourn every single day and have this sadness linger, because what would that do?'
JSYK: You drew inspiration for your 'Fight Back' bracelets from the 'I Heart Boobies' bracelets. Did you see a lot of people wearing them in your school?
Haley: Yeah, I hated them. At first, I didn't even know that they were for cancer awareness. I just thought it was a bunch of idiots being like, 'I love boobs!' Finally, someone said it was for cancer, and I was like, no it's not...
JSYK: You once said that you thought people were getting the wrong message with those bracelets...
Haley: I just though that they were immature. At first, I thought they were saying 'I love boobs' and had nothing to do with cancer. I thought they were just a bunch of perverts or something.
JSYK: How did you decide upon the words "Fight Back" for your wristbands?
Haley: Well, I didn't always manage my own team. I was on a team with the people I used to live with and I had brought it up, saying, 'We should make T-shirts that say 'Fight Back' with the cancer ribbon,' and they just shot it down at first, and we never got around to making anything. So, when I quit their team and made my own team, everyone on it decided we wanted to make a bracelet because the boobies ones weren't that cool. Then I remembered my idea from two years ago.
JSYK: When did you make your first bracelets?
Haley: We ordered them in October, and they actually came on my dad's birthday, which is November 30. We ordered 200, and then by the first week of December they were all sold out.
JSYK: Did the bracelets cost a lot to make initially?
Haley: No, they didn't cost a lot to make. Plus, I told the company that it was for a non-profit organization and they gave me a discount.
JSYK: That's awesome. So, will Teen Beans run again this year in the Relay for Life?
Haley: Oh yeah. The relay's in June, which is what we've been fundraising for -- we just started really early.
JSYK: What kind of advice would you give to other teens, who may have fundraising ideas like yours?
Haley: In terms of cancer research, or just any idea, I don't think that any ideas are too crazy. One reason why I love my team so much is that the people on my team are not serious. They're so fun and lively. They always pull the craziest stuff, but we've raised so much money. A lot of my teammates are really good musicians, and one time we did a can shake outside of a store and I told some of them to bring a guitar or two, if they wanted to play music outside. Well, I literally had a full band on each side of the store -- someone brought a wireless keyboard; there were five guitars; a bass; and, like, a million singers. They were playing so much music, and I was like, 'Oh my god, you guys are crazy!' But we made $800 just from standing outside the store and asking for money.
JSYK: That's so cool. So, you're a senior this year. What are you plans after graduation?
Haley: I got accepted to UConn (University of Connecticut), but I'm still going to continue the team, and I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to work for the American Cancer Society.
Want to order your own 'Fight Back' bracelet? Send an email Miltonfisher33@aim.com or visit Teen Beans' Facebook page. %Poll-59058%