1986: Hands Across America winds through the Hoosier State

Posted at 5:30 AM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 05:30:45-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of Hoosiers battled inclement weather to participate in Hands Across America on May 25, 1986.

The goal of the nationwide event was to raise money to combat hunger and homelessness.

Organizers hoped to do this by forming a 4,124-mile continuous human chain stretching through 16 states. In Indiana, the chain was expected to be about 323 miles spanning 17 counties.

At 2 p.m., participants began holding hands for 15 minutes while radio stations around the country played several songs including the Hands Across America theme song as well as America The Beautiful and We are the World.

WRTV covered the event on the ground and from the air from SkyCam 6.

Former WRTV reporter Sy Jenkins noted several large breaks in the chain, especially in more rural areas.

While rain was a likely factor in the low turnout, another was the 70th running of the Indianapolis 500. It was also scheduled for May 25, but ended up being run on May 31.

Regardless, the weather didn’t change how some people felt about participating in the event.

“I feel good about it. It’s something that I think is very humane, and it is something that the people of this country ought to be concerned about.”

One organizer Jenkins spoke with also felt good about the event.

“People came out in those last 10 minutes in numbers that were just really surprising and really rewarding. I’m very pleased that despite the conditions in central Indiana today, we had a wonderful turnout and a great event.”

“Maybe 10 years from now, 15 years from now, I can sit back and say yeah, I did something. I helped,” said another participant.

Organizers hoped to raise $50 to $100 million. But after overhead costs, only raised about $15 million was raised.