Hanson takes chilly steps to thwart poverty

By Sara Boyd
April 14, 2008

Pop group Hanson hopes that a chilly one-mile barefoot stroll around downtown Green Bay will have fans walking away with more than just cold feet.

As part of the band's "The Walk" tour, participants were asked to join the band in a short jaunt, sans shoes, down Washington Street to make a statement about poverty in Africa — and the thousands who cannot afford footwear.

Braving Wisconsin's cold weather, Taylor Hanson said the conditions may deter them a bit, but it's the importance of the cause that keeps them going.

"We've went from literally people's feet being blistered because it was so hot … to snow in Canada," the 25-year-old said. "One way or another we try to push on. We want to encourage people to push past the little hurdles that might be in front of them."

On Sunday, that hurdle was barely 40-degree weather with 15 mph winds.

But it's not about the act itself, Hanson said. Rather, it is what people can take away from it.

"It just gives people a sense that you're not powerless," he said. "This is really your own opportunity to recognize your own ability to make a difference."

After all, that's how the band got involved in the cause in the first place. Returning from a trip to South Africa — where the band saw the effects of poverty and AIDS firsthand — Hanson said the band was struck with an urge to help.

"If we can walk a barefoot mile, we can realize things like a pair of shoes really is life changing for some people," he said.

The walk is not intended for awareness, Hanson said, but a push for action. Hanson said he hopes to inspire a sense of challenge and a motivation for change — a message that Dawn Slater of Peoria, Ill., heard loud and clear.

"Not many people are aware of what we're doing or why we're chasing after Hanson, but it's all for the cause," Slater said.

So far, the band has racked up 52 miles throughout its tour.

"To be honest, we could be walking for 20 years," Hanson said. "The hope is to remind people that their mile that they go out and do will be part of a bigger goal."