Nearly a mile of new backpacks lined the Spectrum Health Medical Mile on Friday morning.
But you might ask, why?
In partnership with the United Way, staff at Spectrum Health Hospital Group, Medical Group and Priority Health, including the Southfield office, have been collecting these knapsacks for months in hopes of breaking the world record for the longest line of unused backpacks.
And it appears that vision became a reality.
Flooding the sidewalks were 3,318 backpacks donated by staff from the Spectrum Health system. They came in from across the state in all different sizes, shapes and colors, and included everyone’s favorites: Disney’s Frozen, kitty cats, Dora the Explorer, butterflies and lots of colored Minions.
They were placed end-to-end by more than 100 volunteers, starting just outside Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and wrapping around the entire hospital. The backpacks will make their way back to community schools after the official count, with hopes of assisting students in need throughout the year. They are coded by the community from which they were donated, and will be shipped back to the coinciding areas.
The current record for the longest line of backpacks was achieved Sept. 7, 2013, at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., according to the Guinness World Records. Volunteers from the School on Wheels collected 2,710 backpacks that formed a line measuring about 3,591 feet.
At Friday’s event, two counters and two witnesses from outside the Spectrum Health system verified the numbers—and apparent new world record—but there is still much work ahead before the record can be deemed official.
Volunteer photographers and videographers documented the day’s activities and their footage will be officially submitted to Guinness World Records with the necessary paperwork. The verification process takes approximately two weeks, according to Spectrum Health’s human resources team.
“I wasn’t sure how we would make this happen at first, but knew we could do it,” said Steve Heacock, Spectrum Health’s senior vice president for public affairs and research. “Our employees give of themselves every day to families in crisis. It’s what makes Spectrum Health such a special place. It has been tremendous and exciting to be a part of this, and I am proud of everyone who made this a reality.”
Heacock said if he could share one thing with staff, it would be a message of giving.
Even if it’s just $10, give, he said. It’s needed, it feels good and people who give charitably are healthier.
“We have a need to serve others as human beings,” Heacock said, “and the United Way is a wonderful organization that helps people do this each and every day.”