One mile makes a difference
Mayra Arriaga

For the Daily Titan

Updated: Thursday, October 16, 2008

It has been said, that to understand what another person is going through in life, one must "walk a mile in their shoes."

It is a saying that Hanson took literally on its current "Take the Walk Around The World Tour." But the band has a twist. In order to understand how a child lives in Africa, Hanson tells its fans to walk one mile barefoot.

Before every concert on its tour, the band walks that mile with their fans to show the significance a pair of shoes has on a child.

October is National AIDS Awareness and Prevention Month, but for the members of Hanson, who are bringing their AIDS/HIV awareness one-mile walk to Anaheim and Los Angeles next month, the campaign for AIDS awareness is a year-round issue.

Cal State Fullerton communications major Grace Yu, 21, will be joining other local students in the upcoming Anaheim walk.

“I will walk one mile barefoot in Anaheim because I know I will make a difference and I think it’s a unique way to bring awareness to AIDS/HIV,” Yu said.

It all started with a trip Hanson made to Africa two years ago. The band traveled to Africa to record a few songs with a children’s choir for its most recent album, "The Walk," which was released last year. After seeing children suffering from AIDS/HIV and extreme poverty in Africa, Hanson decided to take a stance on the current devastating situation.

“We had a moment where we said that we could be part of a shift or that there has to be a way that we can make an impact on the issues of AIDS and extreme poverty in Africa,” Taylor Hanson said. Most famously known for their 1997 catchy hit song, "MMMBop," Taylor, Isaac and Zac Hanson will continue to walk until they reach their goal of 24,902 miles, the circumference of the earth. So far, Hanson has walked 90 miles barefoot with a total of 7,352 miles walked with fans who organize their own hometown walks.

Last year the Hanson brothers paired up with Tom’s Shoes, a shoe retailer, for their mission. For every pair of shoes sold, one pair would go to a child in Africa. Last November, Tom’s Shoes and Hanson traveled to Africa to deliver 50,000 pairs of shoes to impoverished children around the country.

When Hanson released its album, "The Walk," all the money made from the song “Great Divide” downloaded through iTunes went to an AIDS/HIV research hospital in Soweto, Africa.

“After we recorded ‘Great Divide’, we realized that this song had a purpose ... it was a charity single,” Isaac said.

On this year’s tour, when a fan walks one mile barefoot, $1 is donated to Africa on the walker’s behalf by the band. For each dollar that is donated, the walker decides which cause the money will go to.

There are five causes a fan can contribute to: funding research and treatment of AIDS, building schools, drilling clean water wells, donating shoes and providing short messaging service credits to support access to medical care.

“The work they’ve been doing for the children in Africa really makes them stand out from other bands; besides promoting AIDS awareness the walk also gives fans a chance to hang out with the band,” said Marianna Flores, a fan who participated in one of the band's walks.

According to the UNAIDS 2008 Report on the global AIDS epidemic, "During 2007 alone, an estimated 1.5 million adults died from HIV leaving about 11.6 million orphaned children as a result of AIDS in Africa. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 15 million Africans have died from AIDS.”

Two-thirds of all people living with HIV are found in sub-Saharan Africa, although this region contains little more than 10 percent of the world’s population.

Inter Press Service News Agency reports that it is expected that patients affected by HIV and AIDS will soon account for 60 to 70 percent of hospital expenditures in South Africa.
Hanson will host three one-mile walks in Southern California; Nov. 14 at House of Blues in Los Angeles and Nov. 15 at House of Blues in Anaheim.

The world tour will conclude on Nov. 16 in San Diego, with what will be the 110th barefoot mile for Hanson. The band is expected to go on tour again next year.