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We built the longest swing set in the world for our favorite charity.
Do swings and slides really ever get old? For kids, there aren’t many things that can replace the gleeful feeling of seeing that big shining fortress in the distant playground and then racing to nab the best swing. For adults, the happiness from watching their children’s imaginations come alive, playing games of Guard-the-Castle and House while sliding down back into their arms, is an irreplaceable feeling. This week Backyard Discovery and Big Brothers Big Sisters joined forces to deliver that joyous tradition of the playground set to dozens of families, while breaking a world record in the process.
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During this last week of April, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Backyard Discovery — the largest swing set manufacturer in the US — had one joint goal in mind: to build and unveil one massive, Guinness World Record-breaking swing set. Made of 51 individual Backyard Discovery sets, each would be gifted to 51 qualifying families during a huge reveal and giveaway party in the park. The families, of course, thought they were just there to help celebrate setting the world record and have their kids play on the enormous structure — but they had a huge surprise instead.
We had hundreds of volunteers and a gigantic team of coordinators, and we couldn’t have asked for a better group. Every morning for four days, every volunteer arrived at Markham Park in Sunrise, Florida with a big smile and even bigger enthusiasm to get the job done. As we started building, it was clear that everyone remembered that glee of being on the playground swing set, and we all worked hard with excitement to pass that down to this new generation of little swing set owners. While the advancement in technology offers kids plenty to do these days, we all recognized that nothing can replace the childhood experience of being outdoors with just some monkey bars and your best buds.
And the excitement of our team was infectious. Originally, we planned to keep this event’s guest list fairly narrow, as we planned to share video of the event online and needed to maintain crowd control, but we couldn’t deny the enthusiasm of each new person who saw what we were doing and wanted to help. Our volunteers told their families who wanted to pitch in, the park go’ers stopped their activities and lined up to watch and cheer us on, our runs to Publix in Davie to keep our teams hydrated and fed led to crowds of helpful employees wanting to help and join in on the fun. Our guest list tripled by Day 3, and without missing a beat, our team of amazing event organizers quickly adjusted the plan to accommodate.
And then finally, after a long week of building and shifting plans, the Reveal Day arrived. Everyone on this huge new guest list came bright and early. Families patiently sat at picnic tables and gazed at the structure, not knowing exactly what the day had in store for them. Once a large group of kids were checked in, we gave the DJ a signal to kick off the music, and the kids sprinted out to the field, ready to dance. Speaking for the entire team, this was one of the most memorable moments. Akin to giving a child a shiny new toy and all he wants to do is play with the box, the kids took to the field and were thrilled to just dance outside in the sunshine, loving the spotlight. As all ages gave in to the music and the field became one huge disco, the volunteers paused and took in the energy, the beautiful scenery, and the magic of this special day.
The magical moments continued when the entire group of families and volunteers were called over to the massive swing set where they were going to be part of setting an actual world record. The plan was to all walk together and count each swing set until the end, where we would be met with an official count to submit to the Guinness Book for the world record requirements. As we foolishly didn’t anticipate, the kids went nuts with excitement and, couldn’t contain themselves to and stay in line to carefully count. The adults all doubled over with laughter as we watched the kids run and count with wild abandon. Eventually, we all caught up with one another at the end of the swingset, the final bolt was screwed in, and everyone cheered, clapped and hugged.
While that event would have been enough excitement and fun for the families and volunteers, we still had one really big surprise that had those in-the-know filled with anticipation. Ana Cedeno, the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters, along with Freddie Laker, marketing lead for Backyard Discovery, called all the kids over to announce that 51 of the families in attendance would be taking home their very own swing set. The kids were set loose to find which set had each of their names engraved on the wood. What a moment! Some kids needed to be reassured we were telling the truth and some were so excited they sprinted to find their names, hugging their swing set once they found it! Parents were hugging volunteers and organizers, moments that made it an unforgettable event for everyone.
The entire experience, from start to finish, was nothing less than perfect. While setting a world record as a group has been an amazing experience in itself, it is far more meaningful to be a part of a community where the people of big organizations rally together to make a true impact on the lives of children, connecting them with the outdoors, and awakening and activating their spirits.
Big Guinness Record-style round of applause and thank you to the teams at: Backyard Discovery, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward, Publix, Comcast, McLaughlin Engineering Co., Chester’s Ft. Lauderdale Harley Davidson, JM Family Enterprises, Miller Construction Group, Advanced Roofing, Fanatics Authentic, Sunny.org, Morgan Stanley, Sixth Star Entertainment, SGC & Associates, Stiles Construction, Go Configure, and Qualityplaysets.com.
We’d now love to match this incredible achievement of providing 51 swing sets, for a total of 127 swings, by matching 127 new Bigs to Littles who are waiting for mentoring and a friend. Please click here to help us reach our goal of continuing to go BIG for the kids!