By Rick Shpall
On Saturday, December 5th, 2009, the Los Angeles and Orange County Chapters of Water For People (WFP) teamed up for a morning of exercise, education, and goodwill at the WFP Hike-A-Thon held at the scenic Upper Newport Bay. The successful charity event drew 55 hikers and raised $3,200 donated by hikers, corporate sponsors and supporters. This was the LA chapters second annual hike a thon.
Water For People combats water-related illness by helping communities in developing countries construct safe drinking water supplies and clean sanitation facilities, and through education outreach.
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Upper Newport Bay is an estuary – a place where fresh and salt water meet and mix. It is one of only a few remaining estuaries in Southern California and is home to nearly 200 species of birds, including several endangered species, as well as numerous species of mammals, fish, and native plants. The bay is reminiscent of many of the ecologically rich venues where WFP carries out its life-saving mission.
WFP volunteers greeted hikers on the Back Bay Science Center patio and provided them with some pre-hike nourishment. An inspirational talk by Brook Yared highlighted his experience in Uganda assessing the water and sanitation needs of the local community. Brook stressed the gratitude that their hosts showed for the efforts made on their behalf.
The hikers donned blue balloons that symbolize the precious drops of clean drinking water that elude 2.1 billion people around the world. They then set out on the two trails mapped out for the hike totaling 3.6 miles. The WFP staff and volunteers are inspired by the enthusiastic support of the hikers and the knowledge that their financial contributions are used efficiently and effectively to improve the health and quality of life of the recipients of WFP programs in more than 10 countries.
Informative WFP placards and three quiz stations supplemented the picturesque hiking environment allowing participants to test their knowledge of water and sanitation issues. Colorful stickers were handed out for answering the challenge questions.
After the hike, many of the hikers visited the Back Bay Science Center which provides hands-on exhibits that teach about the estuarine ecology of Newport Bay, the marine ecology of the ocean, and the efforts to promote resource stewardship throughout the watershed.
The Hike-A-Thon was a perfect blend of scenic beauty, exercise (for people and pets), education, and compassion. If you would like to receive information about the next event and get involved with the WFP, please contact, Patrick Griffith of the Los Angeles Chapter at PGriffith@lacsd.org or Rebecca Long of the Orange County Chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org.