A young girl moves her hands back-and-forth to create an angel in the sand.
Up to 5,000 people may gather to make sand angels on the beach in Ludington, Michigan, this summer—all to break a world record and raise money for the cancer patient assistance fund. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Serious fun.

It sounds like an oxymoron, but that’s exactly what will happen on a northern Michigan beach this summer.

Spectrum Health Foundation Ludington Hospital plans to set the world record for most sand angels created simultaneously. The record-breaking attempt, called Be Someone’s Angel, will also serve as a fundraiser to support local cancer patients.

Cancer Patient Assistance Fund

“Be Someone’s Angel is a fundraiser for a very serious cause,” said Kaley Petersen, director of Spectrum Health Foundation Ludington Hospital. “We have many patients that go through our cancer center that can’t afford the treatment they need.”

Even with health insurance, treating cancer can be expensive. Insurance doesn’t pay for travel expenses associated with cancer treatments, nor does it pay 100 percent of treatment costs.

Patients are often left paying copays, deductibles, medication costs and travel expenses. These out-of-pocket costs can put a strain on finances during an already stressful time in people’s lives.

“When people get sick, they sometimes can’t work, which leads to financial difficulties,” said Carol Peterson, MD, oncologist at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital Cancer Care & Infusion. “Since we’re serving a rural area, there are often long distances for people to drive to get their treatment. With this assistance fund, we help with affording things such as those travel costs or the costs of medication.”

‘The most frustrating part’

Andy Tiefenthal knows all too well the impact cancer can have on a family.

In 2008, his dad was diagnosed with cancer. A year later, his mom was told she had breast cancer. In December 2015, the 32-year-old from Manistee, Michigan, received his own cancer diagnosis—stage 4 colon cancer that had metastasized to his liver.

“The financial burden of this is maybe the most frustrating part of what I’m going through,” Tiefenthal said. “I can’t tell you how good it feels when someone helps you out with a bill or something. It relieves that little bit of stress that makes things a little more manageable. Donations like that really do help people get through this.”

Heather Kinnunen, 29, can relate. Diagnosed with leukemia, she is learning how to manage the costs associated with a cancer diagnosis.

“My medications aren’t cheap at all,” she said. “And when I’m going through treatment, I’m not working and my husband isn’t working as much because he’s at my side. It all adds up.”

Goal: $250,000

Through freewill donations and sponsorships, Spectrum Health Foundation Ludington Hospital hopes to raise $250,000 through the Be Someone’s Angel campaign, which includes the sand angel event along with other activities planned over the next year.

“That money will be the initial start to a fund that will be there forever to take care of these expenses and help people through trying times,” said Scott Smith, vice chair of the foundation board. “Money raised during the event is going to go toward one common cause that affects everybody in our area. And to me, that’s the biggest part of this whole deal.”

World record attempt

The current record for the most people making sand angels simultaneously is 352, achieved in 2015 by Keep Wales Tidy, in Pembrokeshire, Wales, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Organizers of Be Someone’s Angel have their sights set on not only breaking the record, but shattering it. They are hoping to get 5,000 people to line the Lake Michigan shoreline at Stearns Park Beach in Ludington on June 10.

“There’s going to be people all over the beach waving their arms and waving their legs,” Smith said. “It’s going to look incredible … when everyone is down there doing their sand angels. It’s going to be an awesome experience.”