A penny saved? Ha! He has 300,000
A South Florida man is going for the Guinness record and trying to raise
cancer awareness.
[FINAL Edition]          

Orlando Sentinel - Orlando, Fla.
Author: Robert Nolin, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Date:Apr 16, 2006
Start Page: B.5
Text Word Count:        715
(Copyright 2006 by The Orlando Sentinel) The South Florida
Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.MIRAMAR -- This is
no penny-ante endeavor.Dominating the living room of Marcelo Bezos'
home is nearly a ton of copper slowly taking shape as a massive
pyramid of pennies -- about 300,000 of them.Stacked by hand. One
coin at a time. More than 200 hours of work.When he finishes, possibly
this week, Bezos will have a pyramid 30 inches square by 30 inches
high, with a tower of pennies atop it extending almost 6 feet high. He's
aiming to break the Guinness World Record for coin-stacking while
increasing awareness of colorectal cancer, which a family member
suffers from."I haven't really told anybody about this," Bezos confides.
"I don't want anybody to start thinking, `This guy's cracked.' "The
40-year-old University of Miami facilities administrator began stacking
his pennies in early January.He works at night, hunched on a stool over
the mound of money, after his wife, Elizabeth, has put their children,
Marcelo, 3, and Samantha, 1, to bed.Not even the neighbors in Bezos'
gated community are aware a longstanding record's being challenged
behind his closed blinds. "They just see this white glow late into the
night," he said.The project has consumed the hundreds of thousands of
pennies Bezos had collected since his parents brought him from Cuba in
1969, pennies he religiously recorded in logs and stored in five-gallon
jugs.Too poor to collect more valuable coins, Bezos hoarded the
pennies that relatives became accustomed to handing him. He also
studied the Guinness books and dreamed of breaking the coin- stacking
record.When Bezos turned 40 last year, and his family member's illness
worsened, he decided it was time to make his Guinness dream work
toward awareness of colorectal cancer. Guinness officials have assigned
Bezos a claim identification number and category -- tallest coin column
-- for his project.Collection depleted, Bezos goes to the bank to buy
pennies in bulk."I got a couple of stares," he said.He's also not above
stooping for a random coin: "I am one of those guys that picks up a
penny off the street."Penny by penny, Bezos expects to break the
previous record of a pyramid built in 1981 with 71,825 pennies. The
publicity, he hopes, will focus attention on colorectal cancer, which
causes about 56,000 deaths in the United States each year.The project
is painstaking, yet therapeutic. "I play my music, have a glass of wine
and meditate," Bezos says. "It does take some concentration to make
sure you don't knock the damn thing down."Which almost happened."I
sort of stuck my knee into it a couple of times and knocked off 50 or
70 coins," he said. "I used every expletive I could find."Miraculously,
his two toddlers have done no damage. "Originally we thought the kids
would be an issue, but they know not to touch it," Elizabeth Bezos
says.Bezos worked out an equation approximating the number of
pennies needed for the completed pyramid (287,820), its weight (1,969
pounds), and cost ($2,878.20). What he hasn't worked out is how to
translate the cents into dollars for colorectal awareness and research.He
may auction off stacks of coins, or set shiny ones into the pyramid's side
to spell out messages like "Get Screened for Colorectal." Maybe he'll
take the pyramid, now resting on a heavy- duty wheeled platform, on
tour."I haven't completed the whole vision yet," he says. "I'm still
coming up with different methods in trying to generate fundraising for
the charity."The Colorectal Cancer Network, based in Kensington,
Md., endorses Bezos' effort. "Something like this penny pyramid is truly
cool. People will remember that as opposed to all the advertisements,"
said organization director Priscilla Savary.Whatever becomes of the
copper structure, Elizabeth Bezos says her husband's time was well
spent. "I'd rather him do that than ride a motorcycle for his midlife