Chicago students support Ukraine — and aim to break record with cereal box mosaic project

Students from multiple city schools got together to create a mosaic of the Ukrainian flag — created with nearly 5,000 cereal boxes — to break a world record.

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Michael Kotcher (right) and Ryder Shiffman stand Thursday in the middle of a Ukrainian flag that was formed out of nearly 5,000 cereal boxes at the Wintrust Grand Banking Hall in the Loop.

Michael Kotcher (right) and Ryder Shiffman stand Thursday in the middle of a Ukrainian flag that was formed out of nearly 5,000 cereal boxes at the Wintrust Grand Banking Hall in the Loop.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Latin School of Chicago students Michael Kotcher and Ryder Shiffman began looking for ways they could raise awareness about the Eastern European nation’s plight, while also helping their community.

Their big idea: Break a world record.

And after coming across an article about students in San Diego setting a Guinness World Record in 2016 by creating the largest mosaic ever assembled from cereal boxes, the pair had their record to break.

Kotcher, 15, and Shiffman, 16, decided they’d build their mosaic into the Ukrainian flag — and like the students in San Diego, who used their project to raise awareness about homelessness — would aspire to also help their local community in the process.

“We thought it would be a fun way to bring everyone together as a community and support the people of Ukraine,” Kotcher said.

The students also created a GoFundMe page to raise money for Razom, a New York-based nonprofit Ukrainian-American human rights organization.

Michael Kotcher, 15, left, and Ryder Shiffman, 16, right, stand together Thursday at the Wintrust’s Grand Banking Hall in the Loop.

Michael Kotcher, 15 (left), and Ryder Shiffman, 16, led the project to support the people of Ukraine and the local community by aiming at a world record using cereal boxes.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

On Wednesday, the boys and nearly two dozen other students from around the city who are part of the group Chicago Children United for Ukraine got together at the Wintrust Grand Banking Hall, at 231 S. LaSalle St., to put their mosaic together. They completed the project Thursday.

The final mosaic, measured by independent surveyors, came out to 34 feet by 86 feet and required 4,932 boxes of cereal.

Those measurements will be used by Guinness to rule on records for the largest packaged food mosaic and largest cardboard box mosaic, though the process could take a week or more, according to Ryder Shiffman’s mother, Lara Shiffman.

To craft the mosaic, the students used boxes of Rice Krispies and Corn Pops to represent the Ukrainian flag’s blue and yellow colors. The boxes were donated by Kellogg’s and will be regifted by the students to the Greater Chicago Food Depository on Friday.

“The Greater Chicago Food Depository thanks Kellogg’s for the donation and commends the Chicago Children United for Ukraine students for their philanthropic spirit,” Sheila Creghin, vice president of operations for the food bank, said in a statement.

Shiffman said he felt confident that his group’s mosaic would grab the record, noting that their project was larger in size and used more boxes than the one created by the San Diego students, but said the record was really a secondary goal.

“It was nice being able to team up with my peers to pull off this mosaic and donate to different causes,” Shiffman said.

Michael Kotcher, 15, right, and Ryder Shiffman, 16, left, stand in the middle of a Ukrainian flag Thursday that was formed out of cereal boxes at Wintrust’s Grand Banking Hall in the Loop.

Michael Kotcher and Ryder Shiffman stand in the middle of an enormous Ukrainian flag that was formed out of boxes of Rice Krispies and Corn Pops at the Wintrust Grand Banking Hall in the Loop.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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