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By Brenda Brissette-Mata
Under a bright, blue sky a giant star stood as a symbol of Genesee County’s support for early childhood investment in Michigan.
Actually, 606 people stood for 10 minutes in the shape of a star and in doing so broke the prior world record (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) of 365 people standing in the shape of the star.
The record-breaking event was the brainchild of Genesee County Parent Coalition liaison Karla Mancini. “When the Early Childhood Investment Corporation announced that this year’s Star Power would be a statewide event with communities doing their own thing, I thought ‘Let’s break a world record.’”
A “sea of yellow T-shirts” blanketed the State Capitol lawn at previous Star Power events held in spring, but this year’s sixth annual event was replicated in dozens of local events and community gatherings that included parades, picnics, videos, a bridge walk and balloon launch, in the run-up to Star Power.
Along with this statewide approach, the strength and influence of early childhood champions are coming together via a new website feature found at http://starpower.greatstartforkids.org. Through letters, postcards, petitions, video messages and other unique methods, nearly 13,000 people have sent a message in support of early childhood to lawmakers in Lansing.
At the Genesee County event, a voting tent manned by Angie Brandt, a nutrition facilitator with the Genesee County SKIP (Successful Kids = Involved Parents) program, let kids vote for their favorite, apples or carrots. Meanwhile, adults had an opportunity to sign a petition being sent to Lansing lawmakers that read in part: “I support dedicated funding for Great Start Collaboratives and Parent Coalitions because that guarantees accountability and measurement of results.”
Mt. Morris School Superintendent, Tricia Hill, said she was happy to volunteer to allow the event to be held at E. A. Johnson High School in Mt. Morris. “We’re big supporters of early childhood,” Hill said, adding that the school board was completely supportive of the event.
At least a half dozen bouncy houses donated by The Moonwalk Man were available for fun in the sun while families arrived for the counting. The Mt. Morris Kiwanis staffed a booth with snacks and water. There were balloon animals and costumed characters wandered among the crowd. The Genesee County Star (a walking mascot) was there, along with the Mt. Morris Panther, Dora the Explorer and everybody’s favorite Disney puppet, Woody, who greeted children and took their pictures.
Deb Holtslander of Burton, a retired teacher consultant in the Genesee Intermediate School District, said she was excited to be part of the event.
“I don’t know how we can get through to legislators that early childhood is very, very important for Michigan,” Holtslander said. “We send letters, we sign petitions. Lansing needs to listen. We need to support early childhood efforts in Michigan and this is a very fun way of being part of that.”
Kettering University engineer student, Guranjan Aulakh, who designed the star to hold at least 500 people, created the outline on the field. Mancini laughed, saying she thought 500 was optimistic; they were hoping for 400.
But the record was set when 606 people crowded into the star wearing white T-shirts, another Guinness World Book requirement. There were children in strollers and wheelchairs and one little boy who crossed the field on crutches. There were parents holding children on their shoulders and babies cradled in mom’s arms.
Before stepping onto the field each person had to turn in a registration form with personal information and then be counted as they passed through the gate. When the count surpassed the old record (365 people) the crowd at the gate cheered.
For 5-year old Hayden McAbee and his 7-year old sister, Annaliese, getting to be part of the world record-breaking human star event was fun, but not quite as exciting as the prospect of ice cream afterward if, according to their mother, Amanda McAbee of Burton, they stood still for the requisite 10 minutes. They did.
Amanda McAbee said that supporting early childhood is one of the “most important things that any parent can do for their children.”
“Sign the petition, write letters to your congressman, don’t let Michigan forget that children are our future. We need them to be ready to succeed when they get to school because it’s the best thing for families and Michigan.”