Some of you reading this are old enough to remember Hands Across America, the 1986 stunt in which over five million Americans held hands to form a not-quite-continuous chain across the country. Some of you have only heard about it secondhand, and some of you only learned about it through 2019’s Us

Hands Across America was a fundraiser. We suppose there’s no way to put a dollar value on the benefit of so many people holding hands and feeling really warm inside, but we at Cracked are cold machines, so we ask: How much money did the event raise for charity?

At first the organizers announced they’d raise $100 million. They didn’t end up managing that. They raised $15 million after expenses (expenses that also happened to total $15 million). That doesn’t seem like a huge sum for five million people working together.

For comparison, the organization behind Hands Across America (“USA For Africa”) put on another big fundraiser that year, Sport Aid. People in cities across the world ran/walked 10 kilometers each, raising $25 million for charity (again, after expenses). Maybe Sport Aid sounds like the bigger endeavor, so it makes sense that it would raise more, and yet Sport Aid cost a total of just $1 million to organize. Our advanced calculations say Hands Across America raised as much as it cost, while Sport Aid raised 25 times as much as it cost.

Here's the crazy part though. Hands Across America and Sport Aid occurred on the very same day, totally by accident. 

USA For Africa organized both events, but the guys in charge of each didn’t check in with each other till it was too late to reschedule. So on May 25, people ran Sport Aid’s “Race Against Time” all over the world, including in the US. But in the US, news stations didn’t bother covering the event, preoccupied with Hands Across America. Also, not that many people in America took part in the races, since anyone interested in that sort of thing was busy holding hands. 200,000 people ran in London, but only 4,000 did in New York. 

We’re not saying Hands Across America would have raised more money by simply doing nothing and letting more people join Sport Aid. But Hands Across America sure did overshadow Sport Aid. In fact, few Americans have even heard Tears For Fears sing “Everybody Wants to Run the World” to publicize the event, so they think the below video comes from a parallel universe. 

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