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GO AWAY WITH . TAYLOR HANSON

By Jae-Ha Kim

Tribune Media Service

It has been a decade since Hanson burst onto the music charts with their ubiquitous hit single "MMMBop." Today, the boys are all young men in their 20s with families of their own. The trio of brothers - lead guitarist Isaac, drummer Zac and keyboardist-vocalist Taylor - is still making beautiful music together and touring to promote their latest album "The Walk." As it turns out, "The Walk" provided inspiration for the Oklahomans to return to South Africa (where they had recorded some of their album) over the Thanksgiving holiday to donate 50,000 pairs of shoes.

"We fell in love with South Africa after visiting there a bit back," says Taylor Hanson, 24. "The people are so generous and giving. It was difficult not to fall in love with them, and their beautiful country." Never one to keep blinders on when visiting foreign countries, Taylor and his brothers saw the disparity between the rich and the poorest of the poor and decided they could make a difference one shoe at a time. Hanson teamed up with TOMS Shoes and enlisted their fans to help. For every pair of TOMS Shoes fans purchase at a Hanson concert, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to an African child in need.

FALLING IN LOVE WITH A COUNTRY: I had heard people talk about how they fell in love with Africa after visiting it, but until I experienced it, I didn't really know what they were talking about. The country and people are beautiful. There are some incredibly wealthy areas, and there are some areas that are extremely poverty stricken. Some people have asked why we would take a vacation to a spot that wasn't "rich." People from New York City might look at Tulsa and say they couldn't possibly survive there without all the things they're used to in New York. Home comes in the form of many differing cities, and so do destinations.

SIGHTSEEING: We loved soaking in the beauty of Africa. We enjoyed touring game parks and took an amazing safari. It is pretty awesome seeing giraffes and baboons and such roaming around. We also got to see the absolute beauty of Cape Town, which was postcard pretty.

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AFRICA: A lot of people who haven't been to South Africa think that it's going to be incredibly dry and arid. A lot of people also mistakenly assume that the entire country is stricken by poverty, when this isn't the case at all. There are those who are very wealthy, but there's a huge gap between them and the poor. It's a stagnated economy.

YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY FROM THIS TRIP: Our sightseeing was amazing, but the thing I remember the most is the line of kids waiting for shoes. For some, this was their first pair. To be able to lean down and offer yourself for the afternoon to help these children slip on a pair of shoes was very moving. I felt almost selfish because it made me feel so good to have the ability to give a little.

SOUVENIRS: We did come back with some nice walking sticks and carvings, African trinkets and other things that you can't buy in stores in the United States. We can't wait to go back, both to vacation and to help where we can.

FACT BOX:

THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA:

LANGUAGE: Zulu and English are just two of the country's official languages.

SIZE: 476,217 square miles.

CAPITAL: Pretoria is the country's official and executive capital city. Cape Town is the legislative capital; Bloemfontein is the judicial capital.

POPULATION: 47.9 million.

To find out more about South Africa, visit www.southafrica.info. To learn more about Hanson's ongoing humanitarian efforts in South Africa, visit www.hanson.net.