Teens take on unique challenge

WARREN – Odd requests are called into the Tribune Chronicle on a fairly frequent basis. Usually, if they are for a student or youth project, the staff attempts to be accommodating.

But the call for a random taste test by a staff writer of an unspecified food prepared by a couple of Howland teenagers probably tops the questionable list.

The call came in on Tuesday and, sure enough, on Thursday the Tribune Cooks’ Bonnie L. Hazen was cautiously eating a fork full of dull purple pasta in a bizarre jelly sauce.

“Is this a raspberry?” she said, peering into the dish.

The chefs, Taylor Hopkins, 15, and Sarah Merz, 15, rattled off a list of ingredients that no one wants to hear mixed together in a meal. But the boisterous two were hard to deny.

Along with their mothers, they are taking part in the “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen” – GISHWHES for short. The weeklong, international fundraising challenge led by “Supernatural” television celebrity Misha Collins supplies a list of sometimes strange and sometimes heartwarming tasks to be completed by teams of 15 people.

One of the tasks was having a published food critic taste a dish they concocted. The goal is to encourage creativity and oust “normalcy,” while performing random act of kindness in connection with Collins’ “Random Acts” non-profit organization.

The winners receive a trip to Croatia to adventure with Collins.

“We went to the nursing home and gave out flowers. She dressed up like Cookie Monster and we gave out cookies at the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (in Howland),” Taylor said.

Among the list of 185 tasks was giving an obnoxious customer name to the baristas at Starbucks.

“Fire-Penguin Disco Panda – we looked it up. It’s a real name,” Sarah said.

Their self-proclaimed chauffeur and Taylor’s mother, Connie Hopkins, 51, is even in on the action. She mowed the family’s front yard while dressed up as a geisha.

“I’m actually very proud of both of them, seeing them at the nursing home,” she said. “They’ve both really committed to it… I’ve also had a blast.”

The girls said they have made friends with their other teammates in Texas, Great Britain, Italy and southern Ohio and have been learning a lot through the process.

“You really can accomplish anything,” Taylor said.

“You find yourself helping everyone. It’s so simple,” Sarah added.

With more to check off their list before today’s deadline, the girls kept their stop at the Tribune Chronicle short. Taylor’s grandmother Elaine Raiger, who tagged along, was more willing to hang back though.

“I thought, ‘This is ridiculous,'” Raiger said. “Now they want me to do a mud bath. They need a grandmother to do it. That doesn’t seem fair.”