That was the week, that was ... for back pain, asthma, flu awareness and, whisper it not, the Wonderbra

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The Independent Online

In the next few days you are being asked to Make a Difference. You may have minded your Ps and Qs on last week's National Courtesy Day, but this week you're supposed to be minding about a whole lot more.

By the time you've finished boosting your bosom for breast cancer, sporting your grottiest tie for muscular dystrophy, fixing up a flu jab for an elderly friend and taking a bungee jump for the YMCA, you may feel like bundling yourself off to bed with a chronic bout of compassion fatigue.

This week, a myriad of weird and wonderful causes ranging from the worthy to the Wonderbra are clamouring for the public's attention. It is Muscular Dystrophy Week, Children's Books Week, YMCA Week, Wonderbra Week, Miscarriage Awareness Week, National School Film Week, Flu Awareness Week, National Asthma Week, National Back Pain Week and Cruse Bereavement Care Awareness Week.

Then there's National Poetry Day, World Mental Health Day and, to round off the week, a new import from the United States: Make a Difference Day.

Community Service Volunteers (CSV), the organiser of Make a Difference Day, is "very conscious" of the increasing competition for the nation's goodwill. "What we're asking for is care not cash," said Chris Reed, a CSV spokesman, who hopes 10,000 Britons will volunteer. "I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but we're asking people to give their time. Just a couple of hours on a Saturday to do something in their community."

"Everyone has something to offer," says Elisabeth Hoodless, executive director of CSV. "Fifty percent of the population are already volunteers. Half of the rest are waiting to be asked."

Well, are they? The real question is: Do any of these national awareness days, or weeks, really make a difference? Is National Back Day nothing more than a pain in the proverbial neck? How does one discriminate between one door- to-door collection and another? This ribbon and that?

And with the Conservative Party Conference and Eva "Hello Boys" Herzigova jetting into London to launch National Wonderbra Week, do any of the causes stand a chance of publicity? The Muscular Dystrophy Group has given serious thought as to whether to abandon their awareness week.

"Last year and the year before we were questioning whether it was the most effective use of our time, particularly as there are so many other weeks going on," said David Sowter, the group's director of fundraising. As an opportunity for raising awareness, the week is "quite limited", he added.

One event - Grotty Tie Day - does capture the public's imagination, but people rarely associate the gag with the disease. "It doesn't do much to promote the name," admitted Mr Sowter. "It's like the Grand National. Few people know who is sponsoring it.

Or Red Nose Day. I don't think a lot of people realise to which good causes the money will go."

But William Sieghart, who is organising Thursday's National Poetry Day, claims that the timing is helpful. "We always have Poetry Day at this time of year, when the publishers have been in Frankfurt and the politicians are making a lot of noise," he said.

As for hogging the headlines and diverting attention away from charities, Mr Sieghart is unapologetic. "I think poetry is a worthy thing. Most people turn to it in times of trouble and strife," he said.

For some more than others, Weeks and Days are a wonderful marketing wheeze. As a plug for the profile of Playtex, Wonderbra Week has been a winner. The three-year-old company doubled its sales during its first Week last year and for every one of the 30,000 bras it sold, it donated a pounds 1 to Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

This year, Wonderbra is inviting the public to join a host of "upfront" bra-wearing stars in an action-packed week of nationwide fun and "uplifting"events. You can, for example, guess how long the factory takes to make the biggest ever bra - cup size, one and a half metres.

For those with an insatiable appetite for do-gooder Days, next week is Make a Will Week. Next Wednesday is Worldwide Day of Action Against McDonald's. And creeping up at the end of the month there is ... Bug Buster Day, Flu Awareness Week, National Asthma Week, National Back Pain, Week, National Poetry Day, World Mental Health Day, Cruse Bereavement Care Awareness Week, Muscular Dystrophy Week, Children's Book Week, YMCA Week, National Wonderbra Week, Miscarriage Awareness Week, National School Film Week Day, and Make a Difference Day.