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CROP Walk is Sept. 21

25th-annual event raises funds, awareness in fight against hunger

Gorge Ecumenical Ministries will host its 25th CROP Walk for Hunger Sept. 21, beginning and ending at Hood River Valley Christian Church, 975 Indian Creek Road. Maps are available for participants outlining one-mile, 5K and 10K routes. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., and the walk at 10 a.m.

“In the 24 years, we have never walked in the rain,” says Hood River contact Leslie Hidle. “We are hoping to make it 25.”

To celebrate the 25th anniversary, the walk will begin with balloons and a group picture, and end with a hot dog barbecue. Walkers are welcome to bring fruit or cookies to share, or canned food to be donated to food banks.

Brian and June Baynes, of Carson, Wash., who have been leading the CROP Walk Volunteer Committee since 1996, will also be honored as part of the festivities.

“Brian grew up participating in CROP Hunger Walks in Michigan,” says Hidle. “They have been wonderful inspirational leaders and our walk this year is in honor of those many inspirational years.”

CROP is an acronym for Christian Rural Overseas Program, and its aim is to raise funds and awareness in the fight against hunger both locally and worldwide “one step at a time.” The Hood River walk is just one of 2,000 such events that take place around the country each year.

Church groups from Hood River, Odell, Parkdale, Bingen, White Salmon, Stevenson and Lyle are expected to take part, as are members from Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, FISH Food Bank and local businesses. Individuals who make a donation and walk are also common. Usually 100 to 150 walkers participate.

Of the funds raised, 25 percent goes to local food banks — namely, FISH Food Bank in Oregon and the Washington Gorge Action Program Food Bank in Washington. The remaining 75 percent goes to Church World Services, whose mission is “to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, comfort the aged and shelter the homeless,” says Hidle. The people of Haiti have benefited from such funds as they rebuild after the earthquake, as have those in the U.S. in areas suffering floods and tornadoes.

Back again this year the Golden Sneaker Award — a pair of spray-painted golden tennis shoes on a board — to be awarded to the group who brings the most walkers. The group who brings in the most money will be awarded commemorative CROP Walk pins, and any individual who turns in at least $125 — the amount was chosen in honor of the 25th anniversary — may choose a T-shirt, hat, tote bag or commemorative pin as a thank you.

Since its beginning in 1989, the Hood River event has raised more than $168,000. The first year, it took in $1,698. Last year, that number was $11,888.72. And for 2013, organizers are hoping to reach $15,000.

For more information about the CROP Walk, contact Hidle at 541-386-3205.

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