Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. A helping hand at the right moment. A favorite meal at the end of a long day. Or doing a cherished activity to put your mind at ease.
For Sam Lee, building Lincoln Log forts was a pastime that helped him feel empowered despite not being able to walk well. Making creative structures took his mind off of the fact that he didn’t feel good. And playing with Lincoln Logs gave him that simple joy of accomplishing something he’d put his mind to. In fact, building Lincoln Logs was one of the last things he did before, at the age of 5, he succumbed to a fatal form of brain cancer known as DIPG.
To honor the two-year anniversary of his passing in 2016, Sam’s dad, communication professor Michael Lee, along with the Lee family’s nonprofit, With Purpose, decided to do something big with something little – Lincoln Logs.
With Purpose, an organization focused on advancing treatment for kids with cancer, is hosting an event this Saturday, March 10, 2018, at Belmond Charleston Place to break the world record for the largest Lincoln Logs structure. The Guinness Book of World Records has certified the current record for Lincoln Logs at 17,384 logs. With Purpose is aiming for 20,000.
“The day before he died, Sam built a Lincoln Log fort. He truly loved to build,” says Lee. “He was immobilized, he didn’t walk well. So, anything that he could take control over and build that was within his immediate space became a real source of activity for him. And, as one of his last acts, building a Lincoln Log fort stands out for us. So, it makes perfect sense as a way to honor him.”
The build will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the lobby of the Belmond Charleston Place hotel at 205 Meeting St. Teams of two architects from Novus Architects will work over the course of the day to complete the structure, which will remain on display in the Belmond’s lobby for an entire month. Anyone interested in supporting childhood cancer research can sponsor a log. Corporate sponsors of the event include East & Westbrook Construction Company and Home Team BBQ.
The event has also been a great learning experience for some of Lee’s communication students, who have assisted with community outreach, social media, event planning, publicity and staffing. Those students are now in the process of establishing a With Purpose chapter at the College. The organization already has a student-run chapter at Texas A&M, and has partnered with 100 teams from the Public Relations Student Society of America to raise funds through a public relations campaign competition.
“After talking with Professor Lee and learning about his son, Sam, I felt a strong pull to reach out to his wife, Erin Benson, co-founder of With Purpose, and get involved in any way that I could,” says Kiersten Helmey, a junior majoring in communication who is among those working to establish a With Purpose chapter on campus. “With this specific event, things I’ve been taught and that I’ve learned in my communication classes have been reinforced. I learned that publicity and marketing should be content-led, and the outreach should be about generating interest in and engagement with your campaign.”
Helmey is looking forward to the end result after Saturday’s Lincoln Log build.
“I’m honestly thrilled to see how many people will be getting introduced to With Purpose for the first time, and getting to see the structure with the actual logs come to life!” she says.
Lee says the original idea for a Lincoln Log build came last year, after his wife asked Facebook friends to suggest ways to commemorate the anniversary of Sam’s death. One friend offered the idea of building the biggest Lincoln Log structure. It wasn’t until word-of-mouth about the idea spread across the internet, and the Lee family began receiving donations of Lincoln Logs from around the country, that they were sold on the concept.
“It just sort of took off, and then, all of a sudden, it became very real for us, and we became fully committed to the idea,” says Lee. “Truly hundreds of people have shipped Lincoln Logs to us. We have about 40,000 Lincoln Logs at our house right now as we speak.”
Clearly, little things can make a big difference.