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Walking barefoot with Hanson

Mallory Johnson - Omega Contributor
From the Sep 24 print edition
Updated: Today at 09:48 AM

It was a beautiful day for a walk.

The sunshine was warm and golden, the breeze was gentle and, oh yeah, Hanson was there.

On Sept. 10 in downtown Vancouver, the brotherly blond trio of Zac, 22, Taylor, 25, and Isaac Hanson, 27, greeted a crowd of fans outside the Commodore Ballroom on Granville Street before leading them on a one-mile walk, barefoot.

Approximately 100, primarily female, fans partook in the barefoot journey, which meandered along Granville and Robson Streets, and ended back at the Commodore where they played an acoustic show later that night.

The walk isn’t just some bizarre pre-performance warm-up ritual for Hanson. Nor is it a meet-and-greet opportunity for fans, although it does happen to include elements of both.

The real purpose of Hanson walking a barefoot mile with fans is to inspire action, awareness and hope while raising funds to fight poverty and AIDS in Africa. The barefoot part is to “get out of the comfort zone” and to illustrate and experience what a mile feels like to someone who doesn’t even own shoes.

Although walking barefoot in downtown Vancouver can be a dicey enterprise, Isaac assured the crowd that “we would never ask you to do anything we wouldn’t do.”

When asked what it’s like to look around at the crowd and see that they’ve inspired action in others, Taylor said it is “humbling, but what’s so great about the walks is that we get to do it with you guys.”

The group said they see their position in the music industry and the public eye as somewhat of a tool to take action.

“We have this responsibility to do something with the power that we have, not out of a guilt trip but out of a sense of empowerment,” Zac said. “There’s something bigger that we need to do…everyone is tired of not representing anything bigger than themselves.”

The boys have chosen five main causes through which to make a positive change in Africa, funding treatment and research of AIDS, building schools, drilling clean water wells, donating shoes and providing short messaging service credits to support access to medical care.

They donate $1 for each person who joins them on their pre-show walks, which they do before every show on their current Walk Around the World Tour, and each walker decides which of the five causes she would like to support with her dollar.

The trio, who first wooed the hearts of pre-teen fans in 1997 with their pop hit “MMMBOP” from their album Middle of Nowhere, is all grown up and has a social conscience.

When they weren’t thanking participants for coming on the walk using megaphones, the Hansons, who brought no visible security on the walk, interacted and chatted with the fans that were successful in jockeying for a close enough position to do so.

The walk in Vancouver marked the 71st mile Hanson has walked so far. The goal is to continue walking until they reach 24,902 miles, the equivalent of the distance around the world.

But they rely on others to help attain that number. Hanson counts one mile for each person who joins them on the walks. So far the group effort has reached 4,219 miles.

Only 20,683 to go.

Hanson said they encourage fans to host their own walks to spread the message and to help bring the total closer to the goal.

“We want it to be bigger than Hanson,” Zac said. “We want other people to host the walks.”

Visit www.takethewalk.net for more information, to donate directly or to find a walk near you.