What began as a simple roll of rainbow ribbon and a box of pins has grown into an international movement.
When the events of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre unfolded, Ben Johansen woke up startled by his husband Tim Vargas, who was the President of the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida’s Board of Directors at the time. They rushed immediately to the Center, as many did that day, and Tim sprang into action, leaving Ben to handle the incoming community and media. Johansen could never imagine what he did next would turn into an amazing movement that has helped many people cope with the Pulse aftermath and other acts of hate towards various communities.
“I just felt kind of empty inside,” Johansen says. “I felt like I needed to do something. Since my husband was the president of the board, I had to do something that brings awareness to everything that was going on. So I ran to the craft store and bought one roll of rainbow ribbon, one roll of black ribbon, and a box of pins. I was making them for people who were volunteering at The Center or people who worked at The Center, and as people came in, they would say, ‘Hey, where’d you get your ribbon?’ I said, ‘I’m making them.’”
In the blink of an eye, the Orlando Ribbon Project was born to always help remember the 49 victims that were lost on June 12th, 2016. Almost eighteen months later, Johansen is celebrating a milestone: 500,000 ribbons have been created and sent all over the world.
Since he started the Orlando Ribbon Project, Johansen has received requests for ribbons from all around the world where they have been photographed and seen all over various media outlets. Notable people who have worn the ribbons include HRC President Chad Griffin, Gabby Giffords, Lance Bass, Alec Mapa, Belinda Carlisle, Ernie Hudson, Steve Grand, Sharon Gless, Alice Cooper, Jamie Lee Curtis, Alan Cummings, members of the Clinton family and various contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
In addition to the ribbons, The Orlando Ribbon Project also offers t-shirts, bumper stickers and other various items that are sold at Johansen’s costume store in Orlando. While some money received is used for supplies, all other money has been given directly to The GLBT Community Center in Orlando. Johansen has always stated that the ribbons are available to anybody that requests them and has credited the hundreds of people who have showed up throughout the past eighteen months at his business or at The GLBT Community Center in Orlando, wanting to volunteer their time to help create the ribbons. Without them, many efforts of the Orlando Ribbon Project wouldn’t be possible.
For more information about The Orlando Ribbon Project or to request a ribbon, please visit their website at orlandoribbonproject.com or visit their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. You may also donate to their cause through their website. Johansen asks that everybody who requests a ribbon to wear them on June 12th of every year to remember and honor the victims of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy.