John and Phillips Marshall squirmed in their chairs, looking dapper in their oversized bow ties, at the exhibit hall in the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center Wednesday morning.
Today, they’re typical climbing, bouncing, smiling, crying 2-year-olds. But two years ago, they were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, fighting for their lives. The Irmo twins were born three months early. Along with their parents, Betsy and Kevin Marshall, they are one of the hospital’s “miracle families.”
The family will be back in the exhibit hall in two months, when Columbia comes together to try to set an official Guinness World Record for the most people tying bow ties at the same time.
The “Tie Us Together” event – at 2 p.m. on Feb. 9 – is free. But proceeds from the sale of specialty bow ties and key fobs made for the event will be donated to the Children’s Hospital to help families like the Marshalls through one of the most trying times of their lives.
The current simultaneous bow tie-tying record is 417 and belongs to England, said Perry Lancaster, manager of the Brittons clothing store on Devine Street, which is spearheading the event and will be selling the limited-edition bow ties – made by R. Hanauer and Private Stock – and key fobs – made by Smathers & Branson – to commemorate it.
“I know we can do better than this in Columbia,” Lancaster told a crowd gathered for the announcement Wednesday.
Setting the world record wouldn’t be Columbia’s first brush with bow tie fame. Brittons co-owner Lucky Levinson is the star of the most-viewed YouTube video on how to properly tie a bow tie. As of Wednesday, the six-year-old video, produced in partnership with the Convention Center, had close to 2.9 million views.
Comparatively, “The Hit” – USC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s monster takedown of a Michigan player in last year’s Outback Bowl – had 1.35 million views Wednesday.
The bow tie video, which lasts a minute and 10 seconds, was the launching pad for the world’s record idea, Lancaster said.
“Anything that raises the awareness of this community in a sense helps us,” said Ric Luber, president and chief executive of the Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports & Tourism, which operates the convention center.
Bow tie people are kindred spirits, said the bow-tie-wearing Luber. When he passes another one on the street, he gets an extra smile, he said. “You don’t have to say anything.”
Britton’s and the convention center are teaming up with the USC Dance Marathon, which has raised more than $1.6 million for the Children’s Hospital over the past 15 years, to put on the world-record attempt.
Betsy Marshall said it’s important for her family to support events like the world-record attempt to give back to an organization that has given so much to them.
Her two sons spent three months in the hospital during the summer of 2011. The hardest part was leaving them every night to go home and sleep. The only thing that made it bearable was knowing she and her husband were leaving the infants with people who cared about them, she said.
But just as important was the follow-up care the boys received from the hospital, she said.
“Their primary NICU nurse is still a great friend,” said Marshall, who “calls once a week to check on them.”