Hanson “Takes a Walk” with students

Imagine walking a mile through Midtown Atlanta. It might take a few minutes, but it’s certainly doable. Fresh air, fairly interesting scenery and, if you plan carefully, you could probably even avoid any major hills. All in all, a pleasant afternoon.

Now, imagine taking that same walk, barefoot. Things get a bit more interesting. Even just thinking about it, you can still feel the crunch of fallen acorns beneath your soles, the sizzle of hot asphalt, the poking and prodding of loose gravel and the splashing puddles of I-really-hope-that’s-just-water-I-stepped-in.

All in all, a not-so-pleasant afternoon.

How about if you threw in live music, charity and rock and roll band Hanson?

This odd combination of bare feet and loud music is precisely what students who passed the Campanile on Wednesday encountered, however.

Sponsored by GT H.E.R.O.s and One, Take the Walk was a chance for students to take part in the fight against poverty in Africa and experience some of the conditions children in underdeveloped nations face daily.

Hanson regularly partners with TOMS Shoes, a for-profit organization known for donating a pair of shoes to children in need for each pair of shoes sold, to assist with events like this.

In a phone interview, Zac Hanson said, “We felt the walks were a way to do something real, to experience something that’s action-oriented: being present and taking off your shoes for something that’s affecting our generation.”

The events are largely targeted at ending extreme poverty and lessening the plight of AIDS.

The goal is to provide access to clean water, shoes, anti-viral drugs and medical technology to those who need them, as well as building schools.

Hanson said he and his brothers felt TOMS epitomized how people could give back. He points to the fact that TOMS is a company, not a charity but still manages to help out.

Hanson said, “It’s a way to help out without quitting and being a non-profit. They just decided that, from day one on, they were going to give back.”

Hanson, along with others, got involved in this kind of activism early, inspired by a company from their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Hanson said, “It goes back a few years. We were originally inspired by some guys from our hometown that developed some medical technology and software for cell phones that would be a convenience in this country, but a lifesaver overseas.”

The band’s interest in Tech’s walk was due partly to fortunate timing—they were touring in the area—but the band says that technology is something they see having more and more of a role in global activism.

Hanson said, “More and more, technology is giving [everyday] people a louder and louder megaphone than they’ve ever had, or, in some cases, the first megaphone they’ve ever had.”

According to Hanson, the company in question designed software for cell phones that allowed patients to keep in touch with their doctor at a moment’s notice, allowing them to get medical advice in areas where modern medicine isn’t readily available.

On campus, the event was largely spearheaded and organized by Ali Kimm, second-year MGT, Sharad Gopal, second-year EE and Maysa Nassereddin, second-year CE.

After hearing about Hanson’s activism during a trip to Washington D. C., Gopal was contacted by TOMS about being a campus rep for Tech.

TOMS then contacted him about hosting an event with the band on campus. After running into a bit of trouble over a non-chartered organization hosting the event, GT H.E.R.O.s joined, and the event was set.

When asked what the event was all about, Gopal gave a similar answer to Hanson: letting people who normally couldn’t help out get involved.

Gopal said, “A lot of people are really passionate about [helping] Africa, and a lot of them want to help, but they just don’t know how.”

In addition to recruiting students, the organizations hosting the event also recruited a great deal off-campus, so Tech students weren’t alone in their walk. Gopal expected somewhere between 120 and 150 participants.

Gopal toyed with the idea of chartering a TOMS Shoe’s campus organization for a while, but is now on the fence. He is now leaning more towards chartering a campus branch of One, a charity organization with the similar goal of eliminating poverty and strong ties to the band U2.

Those interested in learning more can visit the Take the Walk website at .