6:30 a.m., Apr. 24)
Matts 'Bear Hug' puts the squeeze on record books
Matthew High School principal Andre Potvin holds up the trophy presented to the
school for their effort in breaking the world bear hug record while raising over
$90,000 in the process.
on foot, by car and by bus. Thousands of students gathered at St. Matthew High
School on Friday, united in their desire to set a world record while raising tens
of thousands of dollars for cancer research.
began lining up along Bilberry Drive shortly after 10 a.m. By 10:30 a.m. the lineup
went down Jeanne d'Arc Blvd. to Orléans Blvd. and then down Orléans Blvd. to Sugar
10:45 a.m. the circle was completed as more students lined up behind Divine Infant
Catholic Church, down into the Bilberry Creek ravine and up the other side to
join up with the group from Sugar Creek Way. At five to 11, dozens of late comers
could be seen running along the line looking for a spot where they could fill
then the moment of truth drew near. As the horn sounded everyone grabbed each
other around the waist in an unbroken chain. Young, old, big small, 5,024 people
in all. They hugged for 37 seconds under a brilliant blue sky while a police helicopter
circled high above videotaping and taking pictures of the record breaking attempt.
the horn sounded a second time it was all over. Four weeks of planning and fundraising
had culminated with the world's largest bear hug and the largest amount of money
ever raised by a Canadian high school for a single event $90,000 and still
counting. All the money will go to help fund the work carried out by the Ottawa
Regional Cancer Centre.
surprisingly, St. Matthew principal Andre Potvin was brimming with pride over
the effort put in by his staff and students in doing what no other high school
in Canada had ever done before.
is awesome. I'm totally overwhelmed over what we've been able to accomplish,"
said Potvin. "The kids have just blown this apart."
1,400 or so students at St. Matts were joined by 30 bus loads of students from
St. Peter High School; hundreds of other students from Lester B. Pearson High
School and St. Pius High School in the west end; elementary students from Divine
Infant, Chapel Hill, Convent Glen and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Schools
and over 900 people from the general public.
video tape and pictures will be sent to the folks at the Guinness Book of World
Records who will pour over the images and verify the record breaking attempt.
What made the effort even more incredible is the fact that it all came together
over the past four weeks.
Joel, Aaron, Taylor and Devin Philliben joing their mother Treva (right) as they
take part in Friday's record breaking Bear Hug attempt at St. Matts High School.
Hug was supposed to take place next month on Parliament Hill and involve over
30 high schools. Logistically the event wasn't working out and the organizers
were ready to pull the plug. That's when St. Matts came into the picture.
came to us and said, 'No. no. You have to do it'. That's when we decided to do
it here and they have been fantastic," said Monique Amyot, co-chair of The
Force, a one year campaign to raise money for the Cancer Research Centre which
came up with the idea for the Bear Hug.
ball was picked up by St. Matts' guidance councillor Pat McNulty who first sold
the idea to Potvin and then had to convince his colleagues.
Ed teacher Pete Lamothe recalls when the idea was first unveiled at a staff meeting
about four weeks ago.
started talking about forming committees and setting a record and we all just
looked at each other and said, 'There's no way'. This is the busiest time of the
year. While all this was going on we had to get our marks in for report cards,"
said Lamothe. "But as things got going it started to catch fire. In the first
week we raised $10,000 and then by the end of the second week it was up to $36,000.
And then this week it was just crazy. On Monday, the kids brought in over $7,000.
On Tuesday it was $9,000. And on Wednesday they raised over $10,000. It kept going
up and up and up."
large part of why the students have been so dedicated to the effort is the fact
that two of their fellow students are presently fighting their own battle with
cancer. Eighteen-year-old Erin Gannon and Grade 10 student Liam Gallagher could
not be at the Bear Hug due to complications resulting from their illnesses.
sister Liana did take part, however. The Grade 10 student brought in the largest
number of pledges among her fellow students totaling $1,595.
what it felt like to be part of such a huge undertaking, Liana said it was hard
to put her feelings into words.
an incredible feeling to see so many people support cancer research," said
Liana. "It feels pretty good."
never been in a world record before. It's really cool, especially doing it to
help cancer research," added Grade 7 student Christopher Hollink whose grandfather
died of cancer.
the Bear Hug, Amyot presented McNulty and Potvin with a giant silver cup she said
was the Stanley Cup the Ottawa Senators didn't win.
accepting the trophy, Potvin said he would find a special place for it after all
the students have had a chance to touch it.
so happy with what St. Matts has done in coming forward and helping to put this
on. What it should tell us is that if you have a dream never, ever give up. We
are the force and everything is possible," said Amyot.
the last of the students filled back into the school, a thrilled but relieved
McNulty tried to sum up the record breaking effort and whether or not he thought
it would ever be broken.
think every school has it in them if they pull together and focus on one thing
and act on it, anything is possible," said McNulty.
story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local
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