Linked 4 Life brought a message of hope and awareness on World Mental Health Day by setting the Guinness Book of World Records mark for longest carabiner-link chain
WORDS + PHOTOS BY: KASSI JACKSON, OCT. 2020
As the sun shone bright on the outfield of Dunkin’ Donuts Park on Saturday morning, teams from Bear’s Restaurant Group and other community members came together on World Mental Health Day to try to break the Guinness world record for the longest chain of carabiners and send one clear message: We are stronger together.
“One day [I] just had the thought [that] it would be fantastic if we could show people that there was always a lifeline, that there was always support out there for them, and how could we visually show them that when you connect with others — when you reach out, you’re stronger — that builds your strength,” Cheryl Antoncic, co-owner of Bear’s Restaurant Group and co-founder of Linked 4 Life said.
With that vision, the goal to set a world record for longest chain of carabiners was on. The carabiners are a visual representation and a reminder that no one is alone.
“This is a one-day event, but this is not a one-day conversation,” Antoncic said.
Antoncic had significant community support when it came to pulling off such an event and sending such an important message. Marisa Giarnella-Porco, co-founder and CEO of the Jordan Porco Foundation and co-founder of Linked 4 Life, played a big role in the success of Saturday’s event.
The Jordan Porco Foundation’s mission is “to prevent suicide and create a message of hope for young adults,” Giarnella-Porco said. The foundation is Hartford-based, founded in 2012, and went national in 2015 where it now has programs in 250 colleges across 43 states.
The original goal was 11,000 carabiners, which represented the 1,100 college students who die by suicide each year. The event concluded with setting the Guinness world record with 13,808 carabiners linked together, wrapping around Dunkin' Donuts Park more than once and assisted by 26 teams of volunteers.
When Linked 4 Life was looking for a spot to hold this event and set this record, a space was needed where the chain could be laid out without overlap. That’s when Hartford Yard Goats team President Tim Restall said Dunkin' Donuts Park could host the event.
“This year we’ve realized baseball is not essential, but doing events like this and making an impact [are essential],” Restall said. “To be part of this today — and also the bigger message — and help with suicide prevention and education and bring awareness, especially on this day, it means a lot to the organization.”
On the day of the event, local restaurants competed with one another to complete the largest part of the overall chain.
Bear’s BBQ in Windsor won that friendly competition, with 1,100 carabiners contributed by the team members at that restaurant. Shay Johnson, general manager for Bear’s BBQ Windsor, said he has a deep personal motivation to contributing all that he can to events like Saturday’s, especially after losing a colleague he was close to.
“I’m saying that if I couldn’t pick up on the cues that he possibly was giving me, I’m saying I’m not going to miss out again,” Johnson said, after recalling he spoke with his colleague four days before he died. “So getting [this message] out there to as many people as I could was my motivating factor.”
“We want to stop the stigma. We want for people to be able to actually talk about this and not have a negative connotation,” Johnson said. “We want people to be able to say how they feel and not be judged for it.”