The bracelets aren’t fancy. Their design — a printed blue stripe and white letters spelling out Justin Sollohub’s name — isn’t meant to be a fashion statement.
The bracelets mean so much more.
At least that’s the hope of the women who came up with the wristbands to memorialize the slain Anniston officer and now sell them to raise money for the police department.
“We feel called to do this because we want to remember Justin, and we want to express our support for the police department,” said Julie Hanseck, one of the six Anniston women who organized the sale of the bracelets.
Each of the women was close with Sollohub before the 27-year-old’s death in August. He was shot while on routine patrol and later died at UAB hospital.
Claire Caballero first came up with the idea for the wristband. The wife of an Anniston police officer, she said Sollohub’s death inspired her and her friends to set up a fund for the department where Sollohub loved to work.
The “Wristbands for Sollo” fundraiser is one of two recent efforts to memorialize Sollohub and help out the police department in the process. A comedy benefit night set for Sunday is the second.
“If it weren’t for the police department, there would have been no justice for Justin,” she said as she, Hanseck, Treacy Hunter, Crystal Mashburn and Kelli Ford spoke about their “Wristbands for Sollo” fundraiser and shared memories of the fallen officer. The woman who was Sollohub’s girlfriend, Brooklyn Wesley, also sells the bracelets, but was unable to attend the recent interview.
Sitting in the living room of Hunter’s home, the women discussed their plans to raise between $15,000 and $30,000 by selling the bracelets.
Hanseck said the first 2,000 bracelets were delivered from a California company to Anniston the Friday after Sollohub died. A private donation from her husband’s company, Signature and Home Health Care, paid for the wristbands. The women began to sell them for $5 apiece at the police department and local merchants.
They sold 1,000 in the first day, and all were gone within the first two weeks.
“We were selling them off our arms,” Mashburn said.
The extreme interest motivated the women to order an additional 5,000 bracelets, and they opened an account for the fund at the Alabama Teacher’s Credit Union.
Now Hunter sells the bracelets at Anniston City Council meetings. More than a dozen businesses in Anniston, Oxford, Jacksonville and elsewhere in Calhoun County stock them as well.
Mashburn said the women first thought of offering the proceeds to Sollohub’s family, but family members asked the women to send the money to the police department instead.
“That’s what he would have wanted,” she said.
Anniston police Lt. Fred Forsythe said words couldn’t describe how much the bracelets and the women’s goal meant to the department.
“If I could express it, I would,” he said, holding up a wrist to show the Sollo wristband he sported.
The police department itself is trying to raise money to build a memorial bearing Sollohub’s name and the names of other Anniston officers killed in the line of duty.
Meanwhile, the comedy night that’s scheduled for Sunday at Anniston High School will feature acts performed by groups such as Three on a String, Dan Whitehurst, Mike “Cookie” Crawford and X Man Xavier King.
Forsythe said the department hopes for a sellout for the 7 p.m. show. That means 1,200 people will have to purchase the $10-$15 tickets. But by Friday, only about 70 people had reserved them.
Forsythe said that’s not necessarily an indication of who’s coming though. All tickets will be on sale at the door; even those that have reserved tickets have to pay for them Sunday when they arrive.
The money raised by the comedy night will go toward the construction of a memorial wall in the front lobby of the upcoming justice center. The money raised through the sale of the bracelets doesn’t have a specific purpose yet.
“We plan to sit down with the department and discuss what they need,” Hanseck said. “It’s just for whatever they need, whether that be equipment or money for training.”
To purchase Sollo Wristbands, visit the fundraiser Facebook page by searching “Wristbands for Sollo.”
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562.