A World Record for a Good Cause: Latin Students Unite for Ukraine


Lara Shiffman

Michael and Ryder in the middle of the finished flag.

Over this past summer, sophomores Ryder Shiffman and Michael Kotcher built a mosaic of the Ukrainian flag made entirely of cereal boxes. They hope to set the new record for the world’s largest cardboard box mosaic, as well as raise awareness about what is going on in Ukraine.

When Ryder and Michael founded Chicago Children United for Ukraine in order to do this project, they began by raising money for Ukraine to get their mosaic up and going. They started by asking people to sponsor a cereal box, which were $25 a piece, or to provide a custom donation. These donations went to a charity called Razom, an organization that has over 400 volunteers and hosted over 40 events last year to help inform and raise money for their projects in Ukraine. Razom has many projects including emergency response to COVID, Veteranius (a project to support Ukrainian veterans), and SMA kids, which looks to improve healthcare for Ukrainian children who suffer from spinal muscular atrophy.

After collecting donations, Ryder and Michael then asked friends to volunteer their time on three days in August to Children United for Ukraine. They prepared to build the Ukrainian flag mosaic, using 5,000 boxes of cereal donated by Kellogg’s, in the grand banking hall at Wintrust Bank, the biggest space they could find. They used Corn Pops to capture the yellow of the flag and Rice Krispies to capture the blue. After the flag was put together and the world record attempt was sent off to be certified, the cereal was donated to local food pantries. “We wanted to think globally and locally,” Ryder said.

Fifteen students joined together to make the mosaic, including junior Stella Harris, who said, “I came because I think it’s a really important cause and a cool project I wanted to be a part of.”

On the first day, August 10, the flag was finished within around seven hours, which was much sooner than Ryder and Michael initially imagined. The flag ended up measuring 86 feet by 34 feet.

On the second day, August 11, the media came to cover the project and interview Michael and Ryder. “It’s great because we’re not just helping globally, we’re helping locally, too,” Michael said in his statement to Fox 32. He added, “It’s a little too much cereal for all of us to eat, so we wanted to donate it.”

Ryder said, “It means a lot, because after everything that is going on with Ukraine right now, it’s really important that people are spreading awareness.”

Ryder and Michael gathered a lot of media coverage including CBS News, People.com, and Fox 32.

Sophomore Eva Lapiere, who helped build the flag, said, “The hard work was definitely worth it after seeing the final version and its scale.”

Michael added, “It felt great to bring everyone together to help raise awareness for the war in Ukraine.”

On the last day of the project, a representative from Guinness World Records came to see the flag. While the world record is still pending, not only did they raise awareness for Ukraine, but they beat their fundraising goal of $25,000 by 25%.

The reason this project is so impactful, Michael noted, is not only is it helping people around the world, but also, “It felt good to be able to help locally and donate the cereal.”