Summer project ends up a winner for the Bandz Boyz

What started out as a summer pastime for the “Bandz Boyz” has grown into a multi-year project supporting patient activities at N.C. Children’s Hospital.

Summer project ends up a winner for the Bandz Boyz click to enlarge The Bandz Boys (l-r Tommy Robertson, Ethan Testen, Zac Palladino, and Robert Hillhouse) have raised $21,685 over two summers in support of UNC Children's.

Four young men started out with a lemonade stand and ended up raising more than $21,000 in support of UNC Children’s.

“Shortly after the end of the school year in 2014 my son, Zac, and his friends were thinking about ways to earn money, and their first effort was a lemonade stand,” says Wendy Palladino. “They were making rubber band bracelets to pass the time and thought the bracelets would sell.”

Having a product, they needed a market. Zac and his pals approached his father, Bill Palladino, assistant soccer coach at UNC and one of the directors of the N.C. Girls’ Soccer Camp. Since the camp attracts between 1,500-1,800 young women, it would present a great potential audience, but Bill Palladino suggested a new direction for the boys’ efforts: charitable fundraising.

“Once the idea of raising money for a good cause was brought up, they really put their hearts into it,” says Wendy. “And given our work for N.C. Children’s Hospital over the years, it was a natural choice for us.”

So the “Bandz Boyz,” as they came to be known—Zac Palladino, Tommy Robertson, Ethan Testen, and Robert Hillhouse—started making the bracelets in earnest, selling them for $2 each. They were a roaring success but left the group with a problem. Fervent demand far exceeded their abilities to make the bracelets.

“That first summer was fast and furious,” recalls Wendy. “The boys actually had to find helpers to make the bracelets.”

The Bandz Boyz set an initial goal of $500 to buy books for hospital inpatients, but when their first week garnered $1,000, they knew they could shoot higher. By the end of August, they had raised a total of $8,500.

“When we took the money down to the bank to deposit it, the teller was so impressed she donated $2 to the cause, so the final total would be $8,502,” Wendy says with a laugh.

“It was a true collaboration between the boys and the camp,” she continues. “The camp allowed them to address groups of women and also contributed funds to the total.”

Buoyed by their initial success, the boys resolved to do another run for 2015 but opted to make “survival bracelets” made of paracord.

“We thought this fit well with the theme of surviving illness,” she says. “The boys worked on the project over the winter and made 2,200 bracelets altogether.”

Zac Palladino and Robert Hillhouse with their bracelets. Click to enlarge.
The boys treated the effort like a business, holding meetings to discuss their plans and make bracelets. Leslie H. Nelson, UNC Children’s executive director of development, met with the group and asked what they wanted to support through their efforts.

“They decided they wanted to replace the gaming system in the Play Atrium,” says Wendy.

The bracelets sold well at $5 each—so much so that their $10,000 goal was surpassed, and their 2015 fundraising total surpassed $13,000.

“This has been a wonderful experience for the boys,” reflects Wendy. “They treated it like a business and put their sweat equity into it. It was heart-warming to see them work so hard.”

When asked if the Bandz Boyz will be back in business next summer, Wendy doesn’t hesitate.

“Oh, yes,” she says. “They already have a new survival bracelet design, and they’ll be working on it over the winter.”

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