If you have been active on social media since 2011, you may have noticed a very bizarre phenomenon that occurs around August. Facebook and Twitter explode with random requests for items and for help in some of the most outrageous events that could be imagined. These random posts coincide with a strange acronym that appears; GISHWHES.
This odd looking string of letters seems like gibberish, but when it’s researched, it leads down a path that will change everything. GISHWHES stands for Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. This week-long competition was created by actor Misha Collins in 2011. It has grown to an unbelievable spectacle that tens of thousands of participants from over one hundred countries participate in. It helps communities and is the single largest contributor to the charity Random Acts of Kindness.
Teams of fifteen work for a week to complete as many activities off a list provided and submit photos and videos. The winning team gets an all expenses paid trip with Misha to different locations. I have competed twice in GISHWHES and it has changed my life. It pushes everyone past their comfort zones and builds lifelong friendships. I have spent days of nerves and hilarity every year. Every GISHWHES team has at one time or another stated “look what Misha made me do” and have wondered what they were thinking. But we wouldn’t change it. The photos and videos that we have remind us of the crazy and heartwarming things that only GISHWHES could have made us do.
25. Grocery Shop After Being Made Up By A Child
#123 Have a child under 7 choose your outfit, do your makeup, and fix your hair. Then go grocery shopping with them.
GISHWHES items range from the outrageous to the whimsical. They are photographed and scored for points. This endearing photo was for the item asking someone to let a child under the age of seven pick out your outfit and do your hair and makeup then go grocery shopping with them. It truly embraces the idea of going outside your comfort zone. GISHWHES embraces fun and silliness. I’ve personally witnessed the smiles and giggles that occur during this scavenger hunt. Children enjoy watching the participants break past social norms for fun and for charity. If you see something strange or silly during the month of August, you could be watching GISHWHES in action. This adorable photo shows the child and the adult who embraces the “child within.”
24. Parking Salutations Bureau
#102 Don’t you hate that feeling when you walk out to your car and you see the dreaded ticket under your windshield wiper? Let’s change that. Find small envelopes and stamp them in red ink with an ominous: “PARKING SALUTATIONS BUREAU!” Then find a row of cars and put positive messages in your envelopes under their windshield wipers.
This scavenger hunt has the ability to put a spin on almost anything in life. Part of the draw of this week long escapade is the sheer unpredictability of it. The list of items is never released until the day the hunt starts. Each team of fifteen has a week to accomplish as many as possible as best as possible. One of the more upbeat items from the 2016 list was to place “parking tickets” on car windows that contained positive images and messages. What a way to make someone’s day better. GISHWHES is about positive messages, community spirit and teamwork and making the world a weirder but better place for everyone. These gorgeous notes were left on several cars to help spread some positivity.
23. Save The Bees
#99 The bees are disappearing from our planet. This is particularly tragic for gishers, given our reliance on honey for getting things to stick to our skin (oh yeah, and also because we kind of need them to pollinate the flowering plants on Earth, which we depend on for food). Help save the bees by establishing a milkweed garden, creating a painting or mural honoring bees, helping out at your local apiary, protesting the use of glysophates, supporting an organization dedicated to bee preservation, or in any other way you see fit.
One of the most amazing aspects of this event is how far reaching it is. Many of the items are designed to raise awareness. This was one of the more entertaining items for the 2016 hunt. With the masses of participants, affectionately known as “Gishers”, the impact on this serious issue becomes enormous.
22. Pay It Forward…
Happiness DAY 4 (must be submitted on day 4 of the hunt). What have you done today to make someone else happy?
One thing that appears in just about every hunt is a version of a random act of kindness. It can range from paying for someone’s meal to donations. These acts of kindness are at the very heart of this hunt and the charities it helps fund. Misha Collins, the founder of GISHWHES, embodies this generous and giving spirit. He challenges his followers and fans through social media to constantly push beyond the comfort zone and give back. He’s known for his spontaneous and sometimes outrageous posts and antics. This past year had several items that focused on it. Seven of them were designed to add up to a week of days of happiness. Each day of the hunt, a team member had to do something to make someone else happy. The photo I’ve shown is two Gishers presenting school supplies to a student’s mother. They personally supplied all the items to the kindergartner.
21. Another Day of Happiness
Happiness DAY 2 (must be submitted on day 2 of the hunt). What have you done today to make someone else happy?
The generosity carries everywhere. Gishers are known for their openness, friendliness and generosity. We are challenged to do these items during our week long adventure, but many of us have noticed that the friendships and the habits we built during this festival of fun continue throughout the year. We’re pushed to cooperate with people that we have just met and build a functioning team that will manage to accomplish some almost impossible and certainly crazy items. The photo I’ve chosen is of a team member buying someone’s purchase at Dairy Queen. The smile on her face shows the attitude and friendliness that this yearly spectacle generates.
20. Happy Birthday
#20 Handcraft at least 3 birthday cards and send them to this young man: “Boy from Big Bear with severe autism wishes for birthday cards” http://abc7.com/society/boy-from-big-bear-with-severe-autism-wishes-for-birthday-cards/1424726/ – Elizabeth Madsen
One of the items that still sticks in my mind came from last year’s hunt. As a parent with an autistic child, it hit close to home. A news story was run in Big Bear City, California about a young man named Ryan Fritsinger. Ryan has autism and has trouble making friends. His mother talks about how heartbreaking it is to plan parties and have no one show up. She reached out to the local news station with a request for birthday cards. As one of the items, hundreds of cards were made and mailed to him for his birthday. Knowing that a little thing that was so easy for us to do as a community made a huge difference for someone is one of the best things I can ever say I have experienced. It’s the heart of the hunt and of Gishers themselves.
19. Pokemon Planting Flowers
#104 Dress up as a Bellossom or other grass-type Pokemon and plant some beautiful blossoms at a nearby Pokestop.
As a community, Gishers embrace the whimsical and the weird. We’ll show up everywhere in costume for the art of this hunt. During the week that this international scavenger hunt goes on, anything from fairies to stormtroopers can be found everywhere. We are accustomed to the strange looks and double takes that occur. This year, with the release of Pokemon GO!, it added a whole new option. We were treated to photos of the following item: Dress up as a Bellossom or other grass-type Pokemon and plant some beautiful blossoms at a nearby Pokestop. If you saw full size Pokemon planting flowers, you were witnessing GISHWHES in action.
18. Prospectors in Fountains
#87 Dress up as a prospector and pan for gold in a public fountain
The whimsy and eccentricity of the items continues as we find prospectors panning in public fountains. There are no limits to where you’ll find people doing the most absurd and silly things all in the name of charity and fun. The first time I saw one of the lists, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had gotten myself into, but each year I get more excited for it. We spend a great deal of time agonizing over what we could be asked to do, but once we got started, there is no limit. We could be found anywhere, including panning for gold in your public parks.
17. Jensen on Skittles
#34 We’ve seen Jensen Ackles portraits in Skittles. What about Jensen Ackles on Skittles? Draw a tiny Ackles on a single Skittle. Post a photo of the Skittle portrait in the palm of your hand.
Every year, Gishers are given the challenge and the honor of paying tribute to some of their favorite actors by creating portraits of them. But these are not regular portraits. Gishers have to work with materials such as salt, sand or candy. 2016 was no exception. Jensen Ackles is a costar of Misha’s and is a favorite for many participants. 2015 had portraits being made of skittles. Last year’s had a twist. Gishers were asked to create a portrait of Jensen on a Skittle. Some of the submissions were unbelievable. This particular item shows just how interesting the requests can be and just how talented some of the participants are.
16. Color Anywhere, Including Teeth.
#33 Rainbow teeth.
Nothing is off limits for the shenanigans. Everything can be painted, drawn on or colored in some way, including teeth. One of the items left itself to many interpretations. It simply read rainbow teeth. The range of attempts to capture this were spectacular. It ranged from the use of candy to complete stage makeup. This simple item, by leaving so much to the imagination, really shows just how creative Gishers are and how far we’re willing to go in the name of fun. We try to live up to the spirit of the hunt. The more creative the entry, the better in our eyes.
15. Stormtroopers Everywhere
Nobody ever talks about the fact that 250 years ago, stormtroopers who had been abandoned on planet Earth were forced to assimilate into pre-Industrial culture. Dramatically re-enact this difficult time. Show a stormtrooper getting back to basics using a spinning wheel, butter churn, or other old-fashioned tool or machine in a rural setting. Feel free to add accessories to the stormtrooper’s outfit to make their assimilation more complete—a Shaker-style hat, a musket slung over the shoulder, etc.
Anyone who has joined in this week long adventure for more than a year has noticed that Misha and the other creators of the scavenger hunt list seem to have a fascination with storm troopers. These white armored soldiers have appeared in places that range from pool cleaning to washing clothes. There does not seem to be a task these poor guys haven’t tried. We’ve seen them walk dogs, cook and everything in between. 2016 was no exception. We had stormtroopers trying to survive in pre-industrial time periods and having to find ways to accomplish their tasks. It has become such a big part of the scavenger hunt that requests are sent out months in advance for stormtrooper costumes. It’s become a sign that GISHWHES is right around the corner.
14. Group Efforts – Music to Our Ears
#4 Dentists offices are notorious for playing dreary elevator music. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Get dental work done while a string quartet plays live music in the room.
Although many of the items can be accomplished by one or two people, the idea behind the list is to work as a team. Some of the tasks can only be done together. We spend weeks trying to arrange help to pull off anything from the world’s longest hug to a group meetups. We enlist the help of television stations and celebrities as well as local businesses to create some of the most amazing videos and photos that we could arrange. This year we had several items to choose from. One team made me laugh with their accomplishment. They managed to get a dentist to agree to letting a string quartet play while a patient was being worked on. GISHWHES brings people together!
13. Underwater Artwork
#77 Oil and water don’t mix, but in this case we’ll make an exception. Paint a portrait of a live model while both you and the model are scuba diving. Your subject(s) must be wearing formal attire and you must be wearing a beret while at your easel.
Beauty can be found anywhere, right? And art can be created by anyone in any location? Well, GISHWHES does its best to answer questions like this. Every year, it becomes a game and a challenge to complete the artwork items that we’re given. The winning team of 2016, Team Raised from Perdition, took it to new levels, literally, by completing the underwater formal portrait that had to be painted. I’m always amazed at the creativity that the winning teams come up with. It takes ingenuity and perseverance to take your team to first place in this scavenger hunt.
12. Citizens of the World
#80 Sealand has a population of 4 and holds the Guinness World Record for “the smallest area to lay claim to nation status.” Get Sealand or one of the world’s 20 smallest nations (by population) to grant you citizenship or legal status on an expedited timeline (by the end of the Hunt). Caveat, you can’t pay for it. They have to do it just because they want to see the spike in population growth (or they like the idea of gishwhes).
Gishwhes has participants all over the world. We build teams that span across borders and work together. Unfortunately, there are some nations that are so tiny, they may not get represented. Some, such as Sealand with a population of four, can be inadvertently left out. We were challenged to gain citizenship or at least legal status of any of the world’s twenty smallest nations (by population) without paying for it and to have proof of it. We’re determined to make this a worldwide phenomenon that every nation, no matter how small, can have at least one citizen or resident representing them. After all, GISHWHES needs to bring happiness to every corner of the world.
11. Group Meetings
#86 As you all know, Saturday the 6th of August is International Find Another Gisher Day. Meet up (reach out over social media to find gishers in your area) with AT LEAST 5 other Gishers that aren’t on your team at a bus stop and, together, decorate the bus stop with post-it notes inscribed with a mix of delightful, surreal, and uplifting messages. One must read, “Be the unicorn you want to see in the world.” one image of all 5+ people standing in, on, or around the decorated bus stop. The submission description must include the gishwhes usernames of each Gisher in the photo. Each team can the same image if a team member was there representing the team.
GISHWHES is the beginning of many friendships. Any relationship that starts with a week long competition of completing as many crazy, heartwarming, or downright ridiculous items on a totally impossible to complete list is bound to last. You get to know your teammates well as you’re Skyping to plan your next move or laughing hysterically at the latest photo upload. Some of the items are designed to play off of that. One of the most endearing photos that I saw was the submission for “meet a fellow Gisher day”. All over the country, Gishers met up at bus stops to decorate them with uplifting messages and hang out. The camaraderie that comes from this carries on throughout the year. I’m still friends with teammates I had two years ago. As a whole, the Gisher community is a fun loving and generous one.
#103 Everyone thinks Zombies are slow and stupid. This is not at all true! In fact, you recently lost your job to a zombie because they demonstrated a willingness to work long hours without food, sleep, pay, or encouragement. Let’s see the zombie who replaced you at your place of employment, doing whatever you used to do to make a living. The image must show your former boss or coworkers proudly watching the zombie perform your old job better than you used to do.
I’ve shown the fun and caring side of the scavenger hunt that I get to enjoy every year, but now I’m going to share the photos that fall in the “what in the world” group. Some of the items are just strange. We have zombies, Pokemon, unicorns and everything else. Zombies are an endless subject for GISHWHES. This year, we had them stealing jobs. When you walk into a store and are served the by the zombie employee of the month, you might do a double take, but to Gishers, it’s a normal thing. If you ever have a slow moving zombie hand you your groceries or pumping your gas, check the date. If it’s August, it’s probably GISHWHES and you just became a part of it.
9. Building Things
#85 It’s summer (for those of us above the equator)! Time to go the beach! But sand castles are so dated, so gauche, so elitist, so medieval. Catch up with the times and build a sand trailer park.
Every year, thousands of Gishers are challenged to create. We build things from practically every type of material. Art is an integral part of the scavenger hunt. This year, teams were inspired to go to the beach and build, but with a twist. It couldn’t be a simple sandcastle. Nothing that straightforward or simple would fit the GISHWHES bill. We were asked to build a sand trailer park. Misha would never be happy with the overdone sandcastle or sand art. So Gishers took to the beaches to create their own little trailer parks complete with trailers, landscaping, satellite dishes and people. We always have to be original.
8. Padna statues
#98 Your choice! Either a panda made of sanitary pads – a “Padna,” if you will, or a likeness of a totalitarian world leader made entirely of feminine hygiene products.
I think one of the most well known and anticipated items every year is the sculpture that has to be made out of feminine hygiene items. Every experienced Gisher knows that for some reason, Misha and his cohorts love to have this done. This year was right on track for the insanity. We had to build a Padna. Every year, teams of people start stocking up on sanitary pads. It’s all part of the hilarity. Returning gishers have learned to stock up on art supplies, pads, glue, glitter and other things like that. We know we’re going to be using them. One of the fun parts of the scavenger hunt is trying to prepare, when you won’t receive the item list until the morning the hunt starts. The mayhem leads us to levels of cursing and fuming every year. But none of us are willing to give it up. We welcomed the Padna to the Gishwhes zoo!
7. Jedi too….
#42 Let’s see a picture of you and a friend, dressed as Jedi knights, enjoying a root beer float at the White Turkey Drive-In in Conneaut, Ohio, or at another 1950s-style dining facility. Bonus points for being served by a Sith.
Along with the stormtroopers, cities got to experience in influx of Jedi. Photos have been taken in grocery stores, coffee shops, post offices and restaurants just to name a few places. Getting businesses to go along with our wacky and off the wall requests is a task by itself. But Gishers are determined and persuasive. I have found in my experience, that when we explain what we’re doing, most are willing to go along. 2016 brought about Jedi in 1950s style diners. We had to get a photo of two Jedis having a root beer float. Be prepared to see some very strange things every August.
6. Hot Day Antics
#11 You (a human) must re-enact this photo (not pets allowed): http://markobbie.com/wordpress1/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/dog-firehose.jpg
Sometimes we are asked to recreate images. This is one of my favorites, but I will admit it, I’m still baffled to understand what made the Gishwhes facilitators decide to use this one. The original image is of a dog biting the water coming out of a water hose. We had to recreate it by having a team member pose the same way. No animals could be used. The results ranged from silly to hilarious. Having to have an adult get hit in the face with water truly symbolizes the depths and the heights of fun and silliness that we go to for this. This photo was done by my team and I applaud my teammate for going for it.
5. Again with the silly…popcorn coffin
#19 It’s such a strange feeling lying in a coffin almost completely buried in popcorn with only your face showing. Trust me. I know.
Misha and his fellow conspirators are geniuses at taking a route that none of us expect when they design the list. We have had to have meetings in the middle of a lake, rest in a hammock across a river and ride in grocery baskets just for starters. Last year, we had to build a coffin and have someone get in it so we could cover them with popcorn. According to Misha, when he created the list, this is a weird feeling that he knows from experience. The fun of watching these creations come together will never be forgotten. I applaud the people who were willing to be buried in popcorn.
4. Nothing is Safe, Not Even Green Eggs And Ham
#56 Green Eggs and Ham. Sam does not like green eggs and ham. Not on a boat, not with a goat. Show us yourself enjoying green eggs and ham (sunny-side up) on a boat with a goat.
We had the definite pleasure and challenge of interpreting a classic Doctor Seuss story. We had to set up our own example of enjoying green eggs and ham with a goat in a boat. Only GISHWHES would have so many people asking to borrow goats and boats. The amazing array of photo submissions were incredible. I still giggle when I run across these photos.. This was one of the items that truly captures what GISHWHES is. It’s a classic example of the whimsical side of this hunt and the teamwork it takes to capture it. This was one of the items that has people wondering what we’re up to. It’s all part of the fun.
3. We Get Up Close and Personal
#63 Wallpaper an entire wall of your bedroom with photos of your nose. You must cover every inch of the wall and must have AT LEAST 100 pictures of your nose. Pose in front of it with your finger up your nose.
We all know that art is subjective. GISHWHES drives that point home. We have dealt with creating murals and wall art in a lot of places and in many types of styles. But the item that took it to an all new level in 2016 was to cover an entire wall with at least one hundred photos of your nose and then pose in front of it with your finger in your nose. The sheer childishness and silliness of this item made me snicker. But it didn’t stop people from attempting it. I love the photos that were submitted for this item. I applaud the people who weren’t afraid to get their hands, or at least their finger, dirty to do it.
2. A Look Inside
#120 Beauty is on the inside. Photoshop a revised version of your reflection in a mirror. Show us a photo of you standing in front of a mirror. But the reflection we see is what you look like on the inside. Interpret this however you like with the caption on the image: “Beauty is on the inside.”
I couldn’t leave my journey down the GISHWHES path without showing the more serious side of it. For all the fun and antics we do, some of the items are a bit more personal and can take some bravery to accomplish. As participants and teammates, we get to know each other well, and that includes insecurities. We learn to nurture each other and help each other grow. One of the items in 2016 really stuck with me. We were to take a photo of ourselves in front of a mirror, but the reflection was to show how we felt we looked on the inside. To take on this task, you have to be willing to face yourself. I had to share the bravery of my fellow Gisher who was willing to share this photo.
1. Record Breaking
This crazy list is only the tip of the iceberg for the insanity that is GISHWHES. This scavenger hunt has become a worldwide event that has set or broken six world records. We have the pleasure of participating in the world’s largest scavenger hunt that is responsible
for the record for the most online hugs and the longest chain of safety pins to name two. Each year, we all try to see if we can be the team or part of the item that sets a new record. Misha has inspired his fans to dig deep and try for the impossible.This list would not be complete with acknowledging the founder of it.
As you can see from all the photos, this scavenger hunt has turned into one of the wackiest events every year. During the week long event, we push ourselves and each other. We spend time questioning what Misha has asked us to do and what we were thinking getting involved. The true essence of this miraculous event though is the lives it touches. We have had the honor of helping raise awareness and raise money to build schools, help refugees and spread the true meaning of kindness. The following statement was taken directly from the GISHWHES website and truly sums up the entire scavenger hunt and the community it builds. “gishwhes believes that ‘normalcy’ is overrated and that true ‘living’ can be found hidden under the rocks of community artistic creation, acts of artistic sublime public performances, and random acts of kindness.”
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