A weary Ryan Gass, center, on his 71st straight hour of bell-ringing at Walgreens on North Main Street, leans on Jim Ridgeway and Capt. Beau Perez of The Salvation Army, Friday. During his 80-hour marathon, he stayed refreshed by doing push-ups, sit-ups and running laps around the parking lot every hour. He also received a phone call of encouragement from Sen. Tom Udall. Mark Wilson Photo
Ryan Gass has officially rung his way into the record books. In light of the tragedy that took place in Connecticut Friday, Gass and the remaining two Salvation Army competitors, decided to stop ringing their bells simultaneously and share the record for longest consecutive bell-ringing. They ended the contest by holding their bells over their hearts for 27 minutes before officially ending the competition at 7 p.m. MST. Gass, Jason Perkins, of Suisun City, Calif., and former record holder Darrell Tureskis, of Springfield, Ill., will all share the record of 80 hours.
Gass said he felt it was important to keep the purpose of the contest in mind.
“This whole competition started to feel like the competition was more important than why we started doing this in the first place, which was raising money for God’s will,” he said. “I called Jason and Darrell and told them what I thought and they loved the idea. Instead of quitting right then, we decided to finish together at the 80th hour.”
Gass said that while he hit some rough patches, the experience overall was great. He credits his strong support system for getting him through the night and helping him stay focused.
“It’s been great. They’re coming out and supporting me, it’s really nice,” he said. “We had been praying about this for weeks and God really delivered. I got a lot of support and He’s gave me the strength I needed to do this.”
It was that group of individuals that included Capt. Beau Perez and Kathy Webb, who acted as his witnesses and cheerleaders during what Gass considered the “long hours.”
“The hardest part is midnight to about four in the morning,” Gass said. “Right before midnight there’s still a lot of people here and after midnight, it’s like a ghost town and time goes by so slow.”
Gass said during the day, little things like caroling helped him pass the time. At the end of every hour, he celebrated by taking a victory lap around the Walgreens parking lot with the classic theme song to the movie “Rocky” playing. He was able to take 80 of those laps before the contest’s end and on his final lap, his support group celebrated with confetti and cheers.
Perez was in the trenches with Gass during the contest and said they had a few heart-to-heart talks during those cold, dark hours. Perez believes it’s important for him to be there for Gass as well as garner support from the community to keep him going. From new wool socks to bananas with “Go Ryan” written on them, to even contacting senators, Perez made sure Gass had all he needed to endure. He said he couldn’t think of a better way to end the contest than with a sign of solidarity and compassion.
“We got to a point in this contest were we realized that these men they would go until they literally dropped. … We did not want to put them in a position where they would black out,” he said. “That’s not what this contest was about.”
When asked what he’ll do now that the contest is over, Gass quickly exclaimed, “I’m going straight to bed,” before jokingly adding “that might be the next record I break, world’s longest nap.”