By Jamilex Gotay
Where will you find reggae music, Red Stripe beers and food—without an airplane ticket? At Mother’s Peninsula Grille in Arnold, Aug. 25.
The nonprofit group Unity Bands is hosting a special event to support local COVID-19 heroes, with help from Port Tack Ltd. Wine & Spirits.
Unity Bands is an all-volunteer organization founded by Air Force veteran John Schirrippa that aids healthcare workers in need and improves methods of fighting against COVID-19. When stay-at-home orders were issued in March 2020 Schirrippa couldn’t help but notice the negative psychological impact it had on people. So he began looking for a way to bring people together–despite the isolation.
It began with a customized wristband, a symbol of unity, that he began giving away at restaurants and at Bowie Baysox baseball games. Purchases of his flagship product support COVID-19 response and research, plus supporting the resiliency and mental health of frontline workers.
What began as a symbol to draw people together quickly became “more than just a symbol,” Schirrippa says. Unity Bands began to host fundraisers in order to help healthcare workers and find ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As of today, Unity Bands has donated a total $14,178 to healthcare efforts and hopes to donate $100,000 by the end of this year.
Donations help fund medical staff and researchers at Baltimore Washington Medical Center, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and New York-Presbyterian. Funds are used to improve staff morale and resiliency initiatives, provide personal protective equipment (PPE), telemedicine tools, COVID-19 kits, meals and snacks, and research into variants and vaccines. The funds also support patients with the purchasing of ventilators and personal protective equipment such as masks, the hiring of additional clinical staff, and capacity expansion.
The upcoming Reggae Night was inspired by Schirrippa’s connection to the music. He waited tables in New York as a young man and enjoyed how “every Sunday night during the summer, [they] would have Red Stripes for $2 and a reggae band.”