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Breaking Records While Funding Research

By BCRF | September 22, 2014

How a group in tiny Inlet, NY, raised more than $100,000 for breast cancer research — and broke a Guinness World Record in the process.

What do breaking a Guinness World Record and raising money for breast cancer research have in common? They both require tenacity, courage, and, as the folks behind One Square Mile of Hope know, the willingness to think outside the box.

One Square Mile of Hope is the brainchild of a small group of friends from Inlet, a tiny town of less than 400 people nestled in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. After Connie Perry, who owns a local kayak business, lost a friend to breast cancer in 2007, she and her neighbors wanted to come up with a creative way to rally behind research.

“Someone in town came up with the idea of a Guinness Record attempt for the largest raft of canoes, kayaks and guide boats,” said Carolyn Belknap, co-chair of the One Square Mile of Hope Committee.

The idea caught on quickly and, in 2008, the first One Square Mile of Hope took to the water. More than 1,100 boats converged on Fourth Lake and shattered the Guinness World Record set in 2001 by 776 boats on Cleveland’s Hinckley Lake. The Inlet team held the record until a Pennsylvania group topped it in 2010.

One Square Mile of Hope’s response? Take it back. And they did, setting a new record in 2011 with 1,902 boats. So in 2013, when a group on Lake Michigan broke One Square Mile’s second time as world champs, there was only one real option for the New York community.

“We geared up to take the record back,” Carolyn said. The One Square Mile of Hope 2014 committee, along with the Kiwanis Club of the Central Adirondacks, began planning in December 2013 to reclaim the Guinness title. The event, which has become a town favorite since its start six years ago, had people registering as soon as it was announced.

“It’s become much more than coming out to raise a little bit of money,” Carolyn said. “It’s the camaraderie and the support people feel for those who have lost someone and those who are survivors.”

So on Saturday, September 13, despite the rainy weather and cool winds, more than 2,700 boats gathered for the third time to reclaim their Guinness World Record and raise more than $100,000 for research. Though the official number will take some time for the Guinness group to confirm, Carolyn is confident that One Square Mile has pulled it off again.

“I’ve already had people asking me if we’ll do it again next year!” she laughed. “It’s quite something to see a small town like this galvanize for a cause. We all know people who have had breast cancer and it’s just caught on here for us.”

Watch a time-lapse video of the event here.