Cardiff resident Helice Bridges promotes self-esteem with blue ribbon message

Helice Bridges, also known as “Grandma Sparky”

Helice Bridges gave up the life of a millionaire years ago.

Today, she opts for a much higher figure, but not in dollars.

She aspires to have one billion of her blue ribbons bearing the slogan “Who I am makes a difference” spread around the world.

“All I do every day is reach a billion,” said Bridges, a resident of the Cardiff community of Encinitas.

The 80-year-old, who calls herself Grandma Sparky, is the founder of a movement to make people feel valued and valued in a world that so often accentuates negativity.

“We live in a punishment-centric society, based on blame and shame,” Bridges said. “We look at what’s not working and tell people what they’re doing wrong. It crushes the human spirit.

Its approach includes recruiting children, parents, organizations and cities around the world to participate and promote the blue ribbon message.

To date, Bridges estimates, his movement has reached at least 50 million people.

His strategy unfolds from a simple act: telling someone “Who you are makes a difference”, placing the blue ribbon over their heart, explaining that it’s to encourage their best dreams to come true and exclaim “Bing!” like a light gesture.

The recipient is invited to take a pair of ribbons and share the message with others.

“People only need one person to tell them they matter and it will save their lives,” Bridges said. “Every time you hear a ‘bing’, you know someone’s dream is coming true.”

Blue Ribbon meets inspired testimonials from witnesses who say they were helped as a result. One story told how a father’s delivery of the blue ribbon message to his son saved the boy from the precipice of suicide.

The episode appeared in the first edition of Jack Canfield’s hugely popular book, “Chicken Soup for the Soul”.

“It’s a New York Times bestseller,” Bridges said. “The story was later made into a nationwide TV movie. It was also #1 on YouTube for 10 weeks.

“This is a very important story because the second leading cause of death is suicide among children aged 10 to 24.”

Bridges’ success led to speaking engagements. Among many events, she appeared at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which also included then-Vice President Al Gore and the Dalai Lama.

“I’ve been to a lot of places because the ribbon took me there,” she said.

More recently, she has participated in TED talks. TED is an online audio and video conference where innovators share their ideas. The name of the organization is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design.

Bridges created the Difference Makers International organization with the explicit slogan “Helping Kids Live Extraordinary Lives”.

The cover of

The cover of “Who I Am Makes a Difference: The Power of Recognition – The Stories That Inspire Dignity and Respect in All” by Helice Bridges.


She wrote the book “Who I Am Makes a Difference: The Power of Gratitude – Stories that Inspire Dignity and Respect in All”.

The book describes the 10-step Blue Ribbon Ceremony she created to develop the initial concept and shows how adherents could share it with others.

Renowned psychologist and author Dr. Ken Druck, a Del Mar-area resident, described the ceremony as “the antidote to anger, violence and self-destruction.”

In his endorsement of the book, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” author Canfield wrote that his “recognition system gives children and adults of all ages the long-awaited right to be appreciated, respected, loved and nurtured. by the society in which they live.”

Early on his journey to becoming a leader in the self-esteem movement, Bridges adopted the nickname “Sparky”, which became “Grandma Sparky”.

“In 1984, I thought I was supposed to save the world myself,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed and stressed that I asked everyone to call me Sparky to relax. …

“Later, with my grandchildren, I started saying, ‘Well, maybe I’m at the age where I could call myself Grandma Sparky. So it is a warm feeling for people.

The mother of two sons and grandmother of five credit her founding of the Blue Ribbon movement to a series of spiritual revelations.

Depressed by an unhappy marriage, Bridges said, she was on the verge of taking her own life.

“We had a house on the ocean in Del Mar,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of success in business, but our marriage hasn’t been so good. We weren’t very compatible.

“I was 37 at the time. It was 1979 when I left. I walked out of our million dollar house on the ocean in Del Mar. I became suicidal. I just wanted to check it out.

“What saved my life was the very day I was going to kill myself, I fell to my knees and I screamed at the sky, I was sobbing. I said, ‘Stop the world, I have to go down and find a place where people love each other.

Then, Bridges said, a voice whispered to him, “You can’t kill yourself because you’re going to sing, dance, write and have a Broadway musical.” And you will bring love to the world. I heard it as if I was talking to you. So that voice saved my life.

After telling a friend about his vision, the friend advised him to go to a casting studio. Bridges was asked to sing a few lines and, having no experience, she began to sing badly out of tune.

Silence ensued, she said, before those present began to laugh and applaud.

“I got the part because they thought I was an actress,” she said. “I landed the role with these professional kids who had worked on the Broadway and Las Vegas stages. They were between 17 and 23 and I was 36.

“(The cast) rehearsed for three months just to do a one-night show. … So I learned to sing and act. I had three numbers on the show. I loved it .”

She has done two musicals including “Shaking Hands with Destiny: The True Story of the Making of a Blue Ribbon World,” which appeared at the Broadway Lyceum in downtown San Diego.

“I had to do a Broadway musical,” she said. “That’s all I knew. And the Lyceum was on Broadway.

Encouraged by the experience, Bridges mustered the courage to overcome her depression and her predicament.

“I had a voice inside of me that said, ‘I had to make a difference,'” she said. “I ended up volunteering for the San Diego Hunger Project.”

The Hunger Project led to another trajectory when she met people who spoke of their despair: a boy said his family was going to lose their house because his father had lost his job; a girl’s mother had cancer and she didn’t know how they were going to cope; a teacher was distraught because her son had been arrested for drug trafficking.

“It struck me that maybe people just needed to be loved, like me,” Bridges said. “I bought a thousand buttons that said, ‘Who I am makes a difference: my Hunger Project game. “”

“I went up to people everywhere and slammed a button on them…and then people wanted to buy the buttons. … Everywhere people had the pimples.

Bridges said she raised over $100,000 for The Hunger Project. The campaign changed when a woman inspired by the campaign suggested ribbons as an alternative.

Bridges left The Hunger Project due to another mystical experience, she said. An inner voice told her she had to go to Israel, where she found herself working on a kibbutz, a communal farm.

“On February 5, 1981, I left my Mercedes, my clothes, my jewelry, everything I owned, and left with a one-way ticket to Israel,” she said.

“I lived there for six months working in the fields, cleaning the roads, climbing the grapefruit trees, scrubbing the floors. I did everything. I went from millionaire to migrant worker.

“I came back from Israel and my life has changed. You can’t come from an affluent beach town and talk to anyone about being a migrant worker. Everyone was looking at me like I was crazy.

Upon her return, she and a few friends talked about what they could do together. Bridges said she brought up the blue ribbon concept.

“I said, ‘I just want to tell people that they’re loved and they appreciate them. I want to change San Diego,'” Bridges said. “They said, ‘We want to do this with you.’ “

She invited people to her house to talk about the idea and about 70 people showed up, she said.

“I said, ‘We’re going to put on rose-colored glasses and see the good in everyone. I want you to honor people with these ribbons.

“I put together a little team of kids, adults, grandparents, and business people and sent them off with ribbons and said, ‘Go honor people. Come back and say- me what’s happening.Thirty-five thousand people were honored in the first three months.Everyone wanted a ribbon.

Three decades later, the campaign continues and grows stronger as more people participate in its Blue Ribbons Worldwide campaign and Standing Strong Together, its community building and leadership training program.

Whether Bridges succeeds in its mission to reach one billion Blue Ribbon recipients remains to be seen. Yet the world will certainly be a better place because of his efforts.

Information about Helice “Grandma Sparky” Bridges and her work can be found at

Rufus T. Sifford