LITTLE SILVER: CROP WALK TURNS 34

CROP WalkPut on your walking shoes and join the hundreds of volunteers expected to take part in the 34th annual Red Bank CROP Hunger Walk, making a “CROP circle” from RBR High School this Sunday, October 19. (File photo) 

It’s as much of an autumn tradition on the greater Red Bank Green as the Halloween Parade, the Guinness Oysterfest and the Town Lighting concert — and while it doesn’t make quite as much joyful noise as the aforementioned, the annual Red Bank CROP Hunger Walk has been a part of local life for 34 years.

As to the question of how long this public-welcome, recreational fundraiser for community food drive efforts will keep on walking the walk, the event’s website makes it abundantly clear that it “CAN’T STOP***WON’T STOP***As long as there is hunger in the world there will be CROP Walks.”

Departing from (and returning to) the parking lot of Red Bank Regional High School on Sunday afternoon, October 19, the event invites all members of the community to “join your friends, family and neighbors as we walk to end hunger one step at a time.” Hundreds of walkers, strollers and rollers of all ages are expected to take part in what’s become a multi-generational affair; a five-mile circuit (with other options for participants — read on) that gets underway, rain or shine, beginning at 2 pm.

Registration and sponsorship envelope drop-off starts at 1 pm for the 2014 edition of the Walk, with DJ music by John Limyanski and a free warm-up stretching session for walkers conducted by RBR faculty member Dorianne Murray at 1:40 pm. Also prior to the start of the walk, participants and supporters can purchase a special “Heart and Sole” t-shirt to wear along the walk route for $10, as well as red caps to go along with this year’s red-white-and-blue theme. Donations of nonperishable food items are welcomed at the RBR site, with all collections distributed to the event’s 17 partner organizations — a roster that includes Lunch Break of Red Bank, Monmouth Day Care Center, and many other Monmouth County-based nonprofits.

From there the Walk traces a level route through Little Silver and the Red Bank neighborhoods east of Broad Street (where the annual Halloween Parade is set to commence at the same time, 2 pm Sunday) — with water stops along the way, designated rest stops at local churches, and on-the-go entertainment by Short Stop the Clown and characters from Disney’s FROZEN.

The CROP Walk itself traces a route from the first Christian Rural Overseas Program organized by a network of American churches as an aid effort to war-ravaged Europe in 1946. The first Red Bank area walk, co-founded by the late Sarah Dunikowski of Tower Hill Church Church and Rumson Country Day School, took place in 1981 — and here in the 34th year of the event (with Janie Schildge having served as event coordinator for 29 of those 34 years), the Red Bank effort has grown to encompass nearly 150 faith-based entities, schools, agencies, private businesses and community organizations (a current list appears here).

Walkers who’d love to keep pace — but for whom five miles is a bit too much a hike — are encouraged to take it as far as Eastside Park in Red Bank, before heading back to the RBR lot as part of a “short circuit’ walk. Transportation back to the RBR site is offered from any of the water stops along the route, courtesy of Red Bank Senior Center.

Meanwhile back at Red Bank Regional, attendees can enjoy complimentary refreshments from Sickles Orchard and Super Foodtown, take advantage of photo ops with the Disney characters,  and go home with an organic bulb for your winter garden or kitchen, courtesy of Oasis Backyard Farms. Entries in the annual Banner and Poster Contest will be on display, as will the winning creations in the Cardboard Box City contest from a recent Family Promise event.

The quite-comprehensive Red Bank CROP Walk website has all the details on registration, sponsorships, donation options, directions, and much more.