HeroBracelet story on Fox.
HOUSTON -- In the heart of Houston you will find a judge who runs her court with a firm hand. Just above that hand lies a pair of bracelets, each etched with the names of Bonnie Crane Hellum's heroes.
Hellum's father was lost in World War II when his B-17 bomber fell from the sky. Her son is serving the nation as a physician in the U.S. Army.
"I'm anchored to these bracelets. When I feel them and I touch them, they are in my heart and in my mind," says the judge, of the metal strips she's never without.
It is but one of thousands of stories driven by HeroBracelets, a concept that emerged five years ago from Texan Chris Greta's outrage over the lack of resources flowing to the families of service members lost in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"I saw both sides of the equation, the political spectrum, using the war, and the people who got hurt by it most, the soldiers and their families, they were kind of being pushed off into the shadows," says Greta, who owns the Ad Ranch, a boutique Austin marketing agency. "It just plain pissed me off."
To raise funds for soldiers and their families Greta created HeroBracelets, inspired by the POW bracelets worn by Americans during the Vietnam War era. Reaction to the initial on-line offering was swift and overwhelming. In a single day, orders for more than 1,600 poured in. The onslaught nearly cratered the business.
"It destroyed the agency. We lost a bunch of clients," says Greta.
What caught the veteran pitchman unprepared were the deeply personal connections that have come with the project.
"I've got e-mails letters and calls from parents who lost their children a week earlier," Greta explains.
Since the first bracelet was ordered in 2004 more than 66,000 have been shipped to folks across the country and over seas. The sales have allowed Greta to funnel more than $100,000 to the Intrepid Fallen Hero Fund.
Those who order have several options. Bronze bracelets for those serving, purple for those who've been wounded and black for those who lost their lives in the line of duty. Most who've logged on to HeroBracelets.org have a personal relationship with the hero whose name they choose to wear.
"They say, 'I'm gonna wear this thing until he comes home and takes it off my wrist'," says Greta, his voice choked with emotion.
Five years and thousands of new friends into the operation, Greta's anger has been off-set by a profound sense of commitment.
"Marketing is just marketing - but this is the one thing we did that actually mattered. It is such a powerful thing in everybody's life. You can't walk away from it. You can't."