OLYMPIA - The warm, rich sound of bagpipes echoed through the Capitol Campus on Sunday as people in shorts and T-shirts applied sunscreen and munched on lunch before heading out to stroll for a good cause.
As locals put one of the coldest Aprils on record in the rear-view mirror, hundreds gathered for a walk around Capitol Lake to help leave hunger in the dust. Sunday marked the 31st annual Thurston County CROP Hunger Walk, a 10K event locally co-sponsored by Interfaith Works that takes the nation by storm every year to help fill the bellies of children and families locally and around the world.
Organizers estimated about 500 people participated. They were hoping to raise at least $50,000, similar to the amount raised last year.
A majority of the money raised goes back to Church World Service and its programs in 80 countries. About 25 percent stays local and goes to groups such as the Thurston County Food Bank, the Salvation Army and nonprofits and churches, said Wayne Gruen, co-chair of the event.
“The need is great,” he said. “We walk because they walk.”
Gruen added that the Thurston County CROP Hunger Walk ranks in the top 30 fundraisers compared to the nearly 1,700 walks throughout the country.
For some, the walk is a tradition. Bryce Hunter, 20, and his sister Tierra, 17, remember their first walk, though they were being pulled in a wagon.
Bryce Hunter said his earliest memories surround the annual walk.
“I just remember getting really upset that I couldn’t walk the whole thing,” he said.
The Hunters joined other members of the United Churches of Olympia, including 16-year-old Gailln Wixson.
“It makes me feel like I’m really giving back to a good cause,” she said.
Waiting for the rest of her group to arrive, Donna Burkhart of Westminster Presbyterian Church sat on the Captiol steps and said members of the congregation take part in the walk every year.
Aside from the wonderful weather, she used Sunday’s 10K to prepare for a summer climb of Mount St. Helens but said she was focused on the mission at hand.
“There’s still hunger in the world,” she said. “It’s time to wipe it out.”
Other groups, like the Olympia chapter of StandUp For Kids, came out in force to give back to the community and let people know about their services.
The nonprofit counsels and mentors at risk youth and needs to be visible to help spread their mission, said volunteer William Cox.
“The kids see us downtown so they know they have support,” he said. “Lead by example.”
While there were many religious groups on hand and some businesses, others came out with just family.
Kristine Caristi of Olympia brought her 11-year-old son, Kyle, to the event to enjoy the sunshine and continue a tradition of giving back. She also wants him more involved with volunteering at the food bank.
Though still young, Kyle knows the severity of hunger in the world.
“You hear stories about people who are hungry and the natural disasters,” he said. “It feels good to help them get food.”
Even before the first walker stepped foot on the Capitol Campus, nearly 200 donations had been made to the cause, totaling nearly $8,000, according to the Church World Service website.
First Baptist Church of Olympia had raised more than $1,100, leading the 24 reported online teams.
The South Sound Buddhist Peace Fellowship and Interfaith Works also donated more than $600 each. More than 140 individuals made online donations, ranging from $15 to $550.