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Alum wraps up record-setting feat – link by link

Elizabeth Allen ’20 M’22 poses with her Guinness World Record-winning chain made of 10

A moment of restlessness in class started a chain of events that led Elizabeth Allen ’20 M’22 to a Guinness World Record. The project she spent years creating is now officially recognized as the world’s longest candy wrapper chain.

The first link was forged in Allen’s sophomore year, 2017, during a break in a class taught by Judy Stuart, associate professor of education.

“Dr. Stuart always provided us candy,” said Allen, who was an education major as an undergraduate. “I was taking the Starburst wrappers and making them into paper airplanes and throwing them at my friend, and he said, ‘You know how to make them into a chain?’”

She did not – yet. But she learned quickly, and as she started wrapping, destiny soon beckoned.

Sorting the wrappers by color, she built her chain 100 wrappers at a time.

“I built it to jump-rope length, and I kept building it until it stretched across my dorm room,” she remembered. “And then I started wondering if there was a world record.”

Online, she found an unofficial world record claim of a 61-foot chain of Starburst wrappers. Certain she could beat that length, Allen tasted victory as sweet as high-fructose corn syrup. Her next step was filling out Guinness’ online application form.

There was already an official record for longest gum-wrapper chain, but the Guinness reviewers agreed that candy wrappers were different enough to warrant a new category, Allen said.

Since Guinness encouraged her to use her record attempt to draw attention to a cause, Allen chose one she was “super excited” about: glass recycling. When Greenville County stopped collecting glass for recycling in 2018, Furman obtained a Collegiate Recycling Grant from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The grant was only for one year, however, and Allen hoped her Guinness attempt would encourage support for the glass recycling program to continue.

“I wanted to say, ‘Look, I made something with all this that would have just been trash. This is a way to recycle,’” she said.

She did not, she stressed, eat all the candy herself.

“I had a lot of help,” she said. “It was me and my friends at first, and then my campers got into it when I was a counselor at Furman’s Band and Orchestra Camp. After camp was over, I even had a few kids mail me envelopes full of Starburst wrappers, with notes saying ‘Good luck!’”

The chain continued to grow when Allen enlisted the help of her third-grade students at Cherrydale Elementary after graduating in 2020. It was too late to save glass recycling at Furman, but Allen has channeled her passion for sustainability into her work, joining a club of Cherrydale students and teachers who pick up recycling in the classrooms.

She finally finished the chain at 195 feet in summer 2021, while working toward her Master of Arts in Education degree with a concentration in literacy.

“I wanted to end it on even numbers, so I stopped it at 10,000 wrappers,” she said.

Next, she had to submit video evidence of the chain’s length to Guinness.

“We had to count each wrapper individually, on camera,” she said. “My friend and I counted every single one, all 10,000. There’s a really boring two-hour-long YouTube video of this now.”

Allen sent the video to Guinness, and soon the world record was hers.

Her official Guinness World Record certificate arrived late this spring. Now, like many others who have reached the top, Allen is constantly checking over her shoulder for upstarts looking to usurp her record.

“I had a few third-graders in my class this year saying, ‘I can beat that,’” she said.

For Allen, that is a sweet lesson to teach her students.

“I want my kids to know that if they set a goal and commit to it and finish it, they can celebrate that,” she said. “It can be a huge accomplishment, no matter how silly it might seem at the time.”

Last updated June 28, 2022
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Clinton Colmenares
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