Golden Sneaker awarded to Rieley-Goddard
by Alice Gerard
The big prize is a golden sneaker mounted on a board. The sneaker was once the Rev. Earle King's running shoe. Running shoes get retired more quickly than walking shoes, and the pastor of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, 2587 Baseline Road, transformed his shoe into the most coveted prize of Grand Island's annual CROP Walk, held on Oct. 13 in Beaver Island State Park.
King earned the title of honorary chair of Grand Island's CROP Walk for his longevity as a walker.
"I walked more CROP Walks than anyone on Grand Island. This is my 26th CROP Walk," he pointed out, adding that he enjoys the event.
CROP originally stood for Christian Rural Overseas Program. The first CROP Walk was held in 1969 in Bismarck, N.D., where $25,000 was raised to end hunger. Today, more than 2,000 communities hold annual CROP Walks. The nationwide event is sponsored by Church World Service.
Grand Island's first CROP walk was held in 1987. According to Town Supervisor Mary Cooke, who read a proclamation commemorating Grand Island's 26th year of participating in the CROP Walk, "We are walking for international issues. It is a wonderful effort. It gets people out and moving." She added that three-quarters of the money raised in the local CROP Walk goes to Church World Service for programs to fight hunger throughout the world. The remaining money goes to Grand Island's food pantry, said Cooke, who added that CROP is now an acronym for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty. The proclamation had previously been read at the Town Board meeting on Oct. 7.
According to the Rev. Paul Robinson, coordinator of the event, approximately 50 persons walked in the CROP Walk, and they raised $4,000. People had a variety of reasons for walking. They also had different routes from which to choose. The longest walk was 3.64 miles, and it took walkers past River Lea and down a trail to East River Road and then back to the park via the Spaulding Trail. A two-mile route took walkers to Little Beaver Island. The shortest walk was the "golden mile." People who choose that route walked to the first half-mile sign and then returned to the starting point. Signs were posted every half mile throughout the walking courses.
According to Renee Johnson, 40, who walked with her son, Mitch, 11, "We thought it was a good way to help out. It's our first time doing this. We thought that it would give us a chance to spend the afternoon together. We can help a great cause, as well." Mitch added, "I want to help the hungry because they need food."
Carol Dearlove, 81, was walking with Byaombe Shabani, 44, and two of his children, Debora, 7, and Joy, 9. Dearlove said, "I'm enjoying it. It's for a good cause. Hungry people have to work hard just to get food and water."
Shabani, who is the father of seven children, who range in age from 18 months to 17 years old, said, "I feel good because this is my will to walk to help hungry people. Where I come from, people are hungry."
Shabani said that he and his family have lived in Buffalo for three years. They are from the Congo. When the family immigrated to the United States, Trinity United Methodist Church sponsored them. Today, the family lives in Buffalo.
R.J. and Audra Wynne and three of their children, David, 11, Joseph, 7, and Paul, 9, designed the banner for the walk. The family painted the banner, which included colorful pictures of children's footprints. This year, Audra said, they used a template of a foot from the Internet for the banner. In other years, they used the footprints of their children for the banner. "We've made banners for at least five years," Audra said.
At the end of the walk, participants were treated to water, apples, and hot dogs, as well as the opportunity to win prizes. The Golden Sneaker was awarded to Cathy Rieley-Goddard, co-pastor of Riverside-Salem United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ at 3449 West River Road. According to Robinson, "For the first time, the Golden Sneaker Award has been given to the walker who raised the most donations online at www.cropwalkonline.org. A relatively new option, it really is an easy way to raise money among family and friends, as the co-pastor of Riverside Salem UCC/DC on Grand Island found out. Pastor Cathy Rieley-Goddard raised $245 using that method this year, an idea that will certainly mushroom in coming years."