All photos courtesy Mike Madison and Renee Maiz
In case you missed it, the nonprofit Simon Says Give broke a Guinness World Record last Wednesday, Aug. 8, at Mall of America with an annual event called High Five for Supplies. With the help of about 160 core volunteers of all ages, 8,148 backpacks were packed in three hours, beating the prior world record of 8,000 backpacks.
To meet Guinness’ requirements to standardize the process, Simon Says Give was only allowed to include five items per backpack: pencils, a notebook, filler paper, colored pencils, and a glue stick, but they included any other school supplies they had outside of those items and turned them into teacher boxes. Everything goes to the nonprofit’s partners, including Good in the ‘Hood, Little Earth, and the Minnesota Literacy Council—the day after the big event, co-founders Dina and daughter Mandi Simon (see inset photo) were already back at 8 a.m. helping send the backpacks out in 60 different trucks and vehicles.
The nonprofit first began in 2011 when then 7-year-old Mandi Simon wanted to do good for other children. First she and her mom Dina started by making birthday party kits to send to families, and then they expanded to pack backpacks for youth who needed them. Last year for Mall of America’s 25th birthday, they teamed up for the “world’s largest birthday celebration” and packed 2,500 birthday in a box kits, so it was only fitting that this year they would team up with the Mall again to break the world record for backpacks packed with the event High Five for Supplies. While adults do have a hand, it is a supporting hand: On any given day, 40 youth are working to keep the nonprofit going by running operations, organizing local fundraisers, and more.
Chapters are spread out in Minnesota, Illinois, Massachusetts, and South Dakota, so being able to see so many of those people come together for one day for High Five for Supplies is just a visual reminder of how much has come from one simple idea.
“Our [Mandi’s and my] favorite part was how many of our strategy partners were there packing backpacks, or our key volunteers [who were] with us,” Dina Simon says. “Our strategy partners could be a donor that could donate cash but was also still there to co-volunteer, or they could be a nonprofit partner who picked up 400 backpacks and was busy getting them out in the community, so that’s our favorite part—just the relationships we’ve built with the people there year over year.”
Confetti comes down as Simon Says Give’s Guinness World Record is official.