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The Walk Tour returns to Orlando on Thursday
By: Billie Hartl
Issue Date: 10/3/08

Hanson, the fair-haired trio of brothers who burst onto the pop scene with "MMMBop" in 1997, may not be the first band that comes to mind when thinking of raising political awareness.

Yet they've been on a year-long quest to raise awareness on poverty and AIDS in Africa.

Hanson started The Walk Around the World Tour in September 2007 and will finish up in November. In each city they visit during the tour, the band hosts a one-mile walk. They encourage fans to walk barefoot to experience what it's like not to have a pair of shoes. The band also teamed up with TOMS Shoes and for every pair of shoes sold, the company will donate a pair to someone in need in Africa.

Hanson will return to Orlando for the second time during the tour on Thursday at House of Blues and will be hosting a walk before the show, with the time and location to be announced on the band's Web site the day of the show.

The brothers got the idea for the project a few years ago while on a trip to Africa.

"[It became] a general education experience for us," said Isaac Hanson, guitarist for Hanson. "And while we were at it, we talked to some people and were lucky enough to find a school that brought in kids to sing on a couple of songs for our album The Walk, because we were in the middle of making it. We had lots of grand goals but no matter how grand our goal was, we had to get our hands dirty, or maybe I should say our feet dirty, and really go out and start doing things."

Soon after, Hanson released the single "Great Divide" on iTunes, with all profits going to medicine for HIV-positive pregnant women in Africa used to prevent their unborn babies from contracting the disease.

"We felt like that was really something we could do, something we could be a part of, and it began there. It's kind of spiraled beyond that," Isaac said.

Isaac said Hanson's ultimate goal is to get 24,902 people to walk one mile; the total mileage would be the circumference of the Earth. Hanson encourages fans to organize walks in their hometowns, and has pledged to donate $1 for every person who participates.

"This is an exciting time in the United States, since we're about to elect a new president, and I hope whoever gets elected will be a part of positively affecting the issues in Africa, because I've seen the positive effects President Bush has put forward with PEPFAR [President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief]," Isaac said. "I think it's important to understand that we as citizens are the ones who can ultimately make the final difference."

Becoming more politically minded isn't the only way Hanson has grown up in the past decade. The brothers -Isaac, 27, Taylor, 25, and Zac, 22 - are all married with children, and their families are accompanying them on the road.

"Touring is like a traveling circus one way or the other - you roll into town, you set up, you do a show and you leave," Isaac said. "Touring is a part of the job, a great part of the job and we love it."

Isaac also praised Hanson's strong fan base, which has allowed them to continue with projects such as The Walk.

"We feel really lucky we've had a career as long as we have, and we're excited for the future and feel like there's still a lot of room to evolve and grow over the coming decade, hopefully," Isaac said.

Hanson is in the process of writing songs for their next album, which, according to Isaac, should be out sometime in 2009. Beyond that, Isaac predicts The Walk will go on.

"The Walk will continue. We might label it something new to keep it fresh for people, but ultimately the causes that we're supporting and the needs that exist will unfortunately still be there," Isaac said. "We need to provide opportunities to our fans and to many other people to get involved in a positive way."