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Students Aim for World Record While Raising Money for Haiti

Haiti Paper Doll Cut OutsThree business administration seniors at Loyola Marymount University, Jack Bazerkanian, Brandin Cohen, Melissa Stirling, have an ambitious goal for a class project: set a Guinness World Record with the world’s largest paper doll chain and raise $20,000 for the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti.

The assignment is part of Professor Elissa Grossman’s business entrepreneurship course. Her students spend two weeks every semester creating value out of a mundane object. This semester a paper bag was the item selected. “It’s been crazy challenging, but it’s also been fun and inspiring trying to touch the lives of people living 3,000 miles away,” Cohen said. “It’s been nonstop. Since last week, we’ve built a Web site (www.linkedforhaiti.com), spent all day trying to get grocers to donate bags, and we’ve made [collection] jars.”

Donors are asked to create a paper doll, and then mail it along with a donation of $1 or more to the Lighthouse Charitable Foundation: 311 N. Robertson Blvd., Suite 151, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. The deadline is February 11. In addition, the students made jars which have been distributed to businesses and public spaces to collect donations. Fred Segal, a clothing store in Santa Monica, is one of the several businesses that agreed to place a jar in their shop.

“I felt helpless … when the earthquake first happened,” Stirling said. “This assignment has given me a stronger connection to helping the victims and helped me see the aid in a larger scale.”

The students also have created a Facebook fan page and agreed to pay $1 of their own money for every 10th person of the first 20,000 people that become a fan. So far, they have more than 1,000 followers.  Trader Joe’s grocery stores has made a generous donation of paper bags, and the students created a relationship with Capo Beach Christian School in Orange County where the elementary school students will make the paper dolls and an adult will donate $1 in their name.

“We’re not done yet and we’re still looking for more community partnerships and donations. We really want to make a huge difference … and be a reminder to the people [in Haiti] that the world stood with themManhattan Beach City Council Haiti Relief,” Stirling said.

The students also are finding creative ways to balance philanthropy and fun. Cohen is hosting a Super Bowl party and will be charging $1 for his guests to attend; Bazerkanian is asking for the same donation amount to be admitted to his birthday party which will be held this weekend.

“This thing has just taken off and [everyone is doing their own part],” Bazerkanian said. “One thing I’ve learned is how much people can accomplish when they work together and that giving back can be enjoyable.”

According to the student’s Web site, the Guinness World Record is 20,000 paper dolls held by a group of students in France. “We’re going to send the paper doll links to Haiti when we’re done with the project. We hope to donate it to an orphanage,” Stirling said.

For more information, click here to connect to the group’s Facebook fan page.

Photos: (Top left) A pattern for the paper dolls (Bottom right) A photo of Manhattan Beach City Council participating in the paper doll project.