Jack Giambanco : Friendship Lights


“I had this amazing dream in 2012 of people from all walks of life and all nationalities holding these little lights as a sign of peace and unity. That dream touched me deep inside and from that point on I did everything I could to create Friendship Lights from scratch.”

Jack Giambanco literally had a dream. This dream has subsequently driven his passion and purpose to create a physical symbol to promote peace and unity, making the world a better place. While his Friendship Lights may seem like a lovely, simple piece of plastic with a light, the overall purpose and what he has given up for this project is profound. Friendship Lights are a shining beacon made to remind us that sometimes we need to look outside of ourselves to see beauty in others. To paraphrase the great lyricist Hal David, it’s what the world needs now.

"Every year, I make over a hundred of these; I go to Manhattan and give them to people who need a smile. We do a whole big thing with my volunteers in Washington Square Park. I had to give up a lot to do this. I lost a lot of things I had, and a lot of friends who didn’t understand in the beginning what I was doing. I understand, when you tell someone you’re going to do something like this from nothing, from thin air, it’s kind of hard to believe. But I just had to do this to satisfy the feeling I had of other people being comforted by Friendship Lights and by what I was doing, and the whole process of it. In the dream itself, people were holding these little glowing lights, so that came from the dream. I love Christmas trees and things like that, and how cool is it to take one of those lights in your pocket and keep it with you. It represents that peace, unity and hope for people. That’s what it was and that’s what it was going to be.

In the beginning, it was the hardest year of my life inventing this and creating the molds and the process. It was the loneliest time in my life, and all I had was the birds outside the windows. Now that I’m able to get out there my whole world opened up and it changed everything. It’s so fun now going out and meeting people. I meet the coolest people with the best stories; from actors and musicians and other artists, to the average Joe who needs a smile, who works every day, comes home and has to feed his family or her family. It’s just a great feeling.

Now is the time for Friendship Lights. It’s the summertime right now too so and I’m getting out there and really spreading the message. In the wintertime I get invited to a lot of schools, and that’s something that I love to do to give back.

The kids go nuts! I didn’t make this for kids initially; it was just for people in general. There were obviously kids in the dream and adults too. But kids flip out! They scream and holler as soon as they see me. Obviously the teacher gives them little a back story on me, so when I get there they’re hootin’ and hollerin’ about Friendship Lights and they all want one. They love the story. After they hear my story and what I’ve been through, they feel like they can do anything they want. That’s exactly the feeling I want to give them and what I want to give back to the world. It’s really cool…I love going to schools.

I have a regular job; I’m a graphic designer. At night when I come home I start the process, and on my days off, it’s all I do. I’m like a cowboy inventor and this is all off the hip stuff. I just do what I feel. There’s no other business aspect of it, it’s all driven by heart.

A lot of these methods I got from my grandmother making raviolis as a child. I loved her raviolis, they were so good. It’s amazing how some of these methods that I use she did when mixing the dough and kneading the dough, and to see it translated in this makes me feel really good. If you’d seen some of the earliest Friendship Lights, they were the ugliest, wickedest looking things you’ve ever seen. I was just so happy…I ran to tell people and said ‘look, it’s a Friendship Light!’ They said ‘what is this? It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen!’ But deep down in my heart, I knew the outcome and I knew I was on the right path. I believe if you take things step by step and little by little, eventually you’ll find the way, so that’s what I did.

When the light goes out on your Friendship Light, you make a wish, and legend has it that that wish will come true, just like my dream came true when I invented it.

In my neighborhood, a lot of kids found out about Friendship Lights, and I feel like the Beatles when they were running away from fans. When I come down my block they’ll chase me screaming Friendship Lights. I actually have to look around and make sure nobody is around or I’ll get bombarded.

I figured out what I needed and then I figured out a way to make the tools and equipment to make it possible. It started from the molds to the cold box to the little tool I use to pop them out of the mold. None of it existed before.

Each new person who gets a Friendship Light becomes part of a family, so to speak. We’re all going through the same kind of thing. With each person who gets one, I feel that we’re getting stronger and our problems are becoming smaller and smaller. We’re able to open up a little bit and just feel better about ourselves…feel better about life.”

Click To See How Friendship Lights Are Made