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Volume 12 Week 5

Thursday, May 12


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(Updated 8 a.m., March 4)
It's official; Bear Hug event recognized as new Guinness World Record
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

On May 7, 2011, some 10,557 students formed a human chain around the Rideau Canal by locking their arms around each others' waists. The event results in a new Guniess World Record for the world's largest bear hug and raised over $500,000 for a variety of local charities. File photo

An event that started out as a tribute to a former St. Matthew High School student will assume its rightful place in Guinness World Records after officials with the organization confirmed that last year's Bear Hug III broke the former mark for the world's largest bear hug.

The very first Bear Hug was held in 2004 and included over 5,000 students who formed a hug circle around St. Matthew High School. The event was inspired by Erin Gannon, a Grade 8 student who was battling cancer at the time and passed away a short while afterwards.

The first Bear Hug not only set a new world record, it also broke a record for the largest single fundraising event at a Canadian high school by raising over $110,000.

The bear hug record didn't last long, however, as it was overtaken the next year by a group of 6,623 people in Juarez, Mexico.

In order to try and get the record back, a group of St. Matt's students organized Bear Hug II in April 2008 which attracted over 10,000 students from across the city. Under Guinness World Record rules for the largest bear hug, the students needed to form a human chain around the Rideau Canal placing their arms around each other's waists and holding their position for a minimum of 10 seconds.

Unfortunately, there were several gaps in the chain and they failed to break the record. They did raise over $300,000 for cancer research and the CHEO cancer unit, however, so the event was still deemed a huge success.

In the meantime, city officials in Alba Iulia, Romania set a new world record in 2009 when 9,900 people formed a human chain around the city's citadel.

Last year's Bear Hug III was organized to get the record back once and for all and raise more than $500,000 for various cancer related charities in the process.

The organizers learned from the deficiencies of 2008, and made sure that there were no gaps in the chain. They also invited five more high schools, bringing the total number of schools involved to 15 and the total number of participants to more than 10,000.

In order to authenticate the record, they had a team circling overhead in a helicopter taking still pictures as well as a video which they sent into the Guinness World Records offices in England.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board found out on Wednesday that the event had indeed set a new world record of 10,554 participants. The board will be presented with a Guinness World Record certificate during their next meeting on March 8.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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