On Saturday, Oct. 8th, Rhys Pinder ’20 hugged a tree on Middle Path for eight hours and 15 minutes, breaking the Guinness world record for the “World’s Longest Tree Hug.” This event was hosted by the Phi Kappa Tau (Phi Taus) fraternity in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit.
However, Pinder and his fraternity were not just in it for the glory. They were fundraising for SeriousFun, a charity dedicated to helping children with serious illness improve their mental and social well-being through camp and recreational experiences.The Phi Taus’ philanthropy chair, Henry Biedron ’21, organized the event. Biedron publicized the event, coordinated two live streams and set up a donation campaign. He was also on the ground selling cookies, taking donations and making sure the event ran smoothly. Overall, the event raised $6,000 for SeriousFun.
Biedron was also Pinder’s right hand man — literally. While Pinder’s hands were occupied hugging the tree, Biedron was in charge of providing him with food and water. Pinder first pitched the idea for the event as a first year after it came to him “in a fever dream”. Over time Pinder became more serious about attempting the record and making it a fundraising event. It was Biedron who provided the final push that turned this from a fever dream to reality.
“It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, as long as what you are doing is supporting something that you believe,” Biedron said.
Pinder and Biedron explained that the tree they chose was perfect because of it’s proximity to the Church of the Holy Spirit, which gave them access to electricity. The tree is also on Middle Path, which drew traffic. It was strong enough to support Pinder as he grew tired, and it was small enough to wrap his arms around. Pinder also stated that this tree did not have the same presence as an older tree, but “now this tree has been given a link to this character-building moment.” For Pinder, this tree stands out from the rest. “I don’t notice any other tree,” He said. “I just think, ‘There’s that tree that I hugged for eight hours.’”
Aside from general exhaustion and one ruined sweatshirt, Pinder reported no major complications in the event. Lauren Onel ’20, who helped bake cookies for the event, was not surprised that he made it the full eight hours, though she said that “the expression on his face definitely changed at around six and a half hours”.
Onel was one of the many people who came to support Pinder during the hug. Members of Pep Band came to play Pinder songs of support, visitors on tours wished him luck and his friends played music and podcasts to keep him entertained during the event.
Biedron and Pinder are in the process of submitting forms and evidence of the feat to Guinness World Records in order to make his triumph official.