PALS Project Piles Plushies

Members of the PALS program gathered a mountain of 5,657 stuffed animals, shattering the former Guinness World Record for the “largest gathering of plush toys.” According to The Boston Globe, the students more than doubled the former record of 2,304 stuffed animals held by National Geographic KIDS Magazine. The stuffed toys will be used as academic prizes in the PALS program, a 20-year-old joint community outreach program of academic enrichment that pairs Phillips Academy and Andover High School students with Lawrence seventh and eighth graders. Cone also plans to donate the stuffed animals to hospitals, libraries, orphanages and schools in Belize. “[The results of the drive were] just amazing,” said Thomas Cone, Instructor in Biology and Director and Founder of PALS. “I never would have thought it would happen.” The students learned of their accomplishment in a school meeting on Monday, April 14, when Andover Police Chief Brian Patullo and school committee member Deb Silberstein made an official tally of the toys. Patullo said that counting the toys was “probably one of the most unusual things [he’d] done in his career.” The results were then sent to Guinness World Records, where they will be verified over the next few weeks. Cone, who attended the assembly, said that when the program approached him with the goal of breaking the world record, he did not expect such successful results. The PALS drive has typically raised around 200 toys per year since its establishment 12 years ago. Cone was impressed by the enormous community effort. People from other towns contributed toys to the well-publicized drive, he said. In addition, “many dedicated parents and students” helped to obtain the approximately 100 trash bags full of stuffed animals.