ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor
Dallas Crilley stops by my office unannounced one workday morning, asking me to write a story about him. That takes balls.
Then again, balls are very important to him right now. You might say he has balls on the brain.
Crilley, the son of former local TV personality Jeff Crilley, is only 18, but he has big ideas. And the one he’s been working on lately is a fundraising effort for testicular cancer: Putting the statement “I heart balls!” on wristbands.
“It kind of started as a joke,” Dallas says. It was not an original idea: There were already wristbands announcing “I heart boobies” meant to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. “Somebody said to me, ‘Why not an ‘I heart wieners’ wristband?” I’d heard the joke so many times, it began to sink in.”
Dallas changed the logo to “I heart balls” in order to target testicular cancer.
“I didn’t want it to be a parody. Cancer isn’t funny, but the ‘I heart boobies’ [bracelets] are ingenious because they made the subject of cancer something people could talk about at the dinner table,” Dallas says. “But the undertones are definitely serious. This year, 8,000 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer and 300 will die. It’s the most common form of cancer for men aged 18 to 35.” Which puts Dallas himself in the risk group for his foreseeable future.
Crilley is putting his money where his wrist is. Last month, his company made its first donation to a cancer charity — before he had even paid for the cost of producing the bracelets, he says. He wanted people to know he is serious about doing good deeds and is not some kid with a gimmick.
“We are not a non-profit yet, but we are in the process. Until then, it doesn’t mean we can’t donate,” Dallas says. “Me and my girlfriend and my friend walked into that American Cancer Society’s Dallas chapter with a check for $1,000. They were like, ‘Oh my gosh! We don’t usually get walk-in donations that big.’”
He plans to make donations to a variety of testicular cancer-research charities and forums, including some that are Internet-based, to “show them all some love,” he says.
“So far, his success is totally through word-of-mouth,” brags dad Jeff. “This is the first interview he’s conducted about his product,” which launched in November. “Everything has been viral. He mails out three or four packages every day. I’m proud of him as a dad.”
The bracelets are available in a variety of colors, including orchid — the official testicular cancer ribbon color — which is the most popular.
Most of the orders, Dallas notes, have been from girls, but they cross a gamut socially and geographically: He’s shipped packages as far as the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. And he thinks his efforts at awareness would be of serious interest to the gay community. (Next year, he hopes to have wristbands for sale at the Texas Bear Round-Up, and possibly other gay events before that.)
If you’re impressed that an 18-year-old would start a company, it’s old hat to Dallas Crilley. He wrote his first book, Kidpreneur, at age 15, a guide to teenaged entrepreneurship. (He beat his dad by 30 years, Jeff jokes.) That makes him, before he can even legally drink alcohol, a serial entrepreneur. He even has some other business ideas on his mind. But he’s not talking specifics.
Hey, the first lesson a magnate learns is, don’t give away a million-dollar idea.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.