Hanson fans take a walk downtown
Band goes barefoot to help end AIDS, poverty in Africa
Jenny Ratledge,
Thursday, October 2, 2008

Taylor Hanson checks out the Hanson tattoos on fans Erica Dean and Krista Hipsher during a one-mile barefoot walk Wednesday along Gay Street to raise money and awareness in the fight against poverty and AIDS in Africa. Hanson later performed at the Bijou Theatre.

Speaking to mostly barefoot fans in front of the Bijou Theatre, the pop/rock band Hanson rallied a crowd of about 150 Wednesday for its Take the Walk initiative to raise money and awareness for a good cause.

Take the Walk is literally taking steps to end poverty and HIV/AIDs in Africa. The program calls for fans to gather, either with the band on tour or in self-organized groups, and walk one mile. For every mile walked by participants, Hanson donates a dollar to one of five causes the walker can choose from: drilling clean water wells, providing drugs to HIV-positive mothers, building schools, donating a pair of TOMS Shoes and providing access to doctors.

The band does this in every city where it performs on its The Walk Around the World Tour.

"It's exciting to show people that your walk is part of a bigger goal and is something that is going to make a difference," Isaac Hanson said.

Taylor Hanson said Take the Walk connects people to the issues and looks to solve large-scale problems with simple actions, like walking or donating shoes.

"Issues in Africa, such as AIDS, have been so broadly publicized that people often feel it's this larger-than-life, very-distant cause," Taylor Hanson said. "With the walk, we wanted to do something very real and very tangible."

Zac Hanson added, "We are talking to people about using their resources - using the things you are, not something else to give."

At every walk, the band asks the crowd to remove their shoes. Taylor said this gives people an opportunity to connect with a simple need such as shoes that Americans take for granted. A few walkers, while crossing the Gay Street Bridge, paused momentarily to remove shards of glass from their feet, only to promptly continue.

On her 16th walk with the band, California native Rachel Galleos, walking with her shoes in hand, said she's gotten used to walking without shoes at these events.

But, "The heat and cold is something you never get used to," Galleos said.

Hanson's goal is to complete 24,902 miles with the fans, which is the distance around the Earth. Since beginning in 2007, the walk has already accrued almost 6,000 miles, when all the walkers are counted. Knoxville's walk marked the band's 81st mile.

"It activates a sense of empowerment and excitement about what you can do as an average person," Taylor Hanson said.