The Cleveland County CROP Walk to Stop Hunger will bring together hundreds of people from faith groups, businesses and organizations Oct. 20 to fight hunger and poverty locally and around the world.

"Let It Begin With Me" is the theme of the 36th annual CROP Walk, which will begin and end at Andrews Park, 201 W. Daws in Norman. Festivities begin at 1 p.m. with a new youth-led Education Fair and Chalk the Walk for Hunger, a sidewalk chalk art contest for kids. Walk registration will begin at 1:30 p.m., with the send-off scheduled for 2 p.m.

CROP (Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty) is a nationwide, ecumenical effort to raise awareness and raise funds to fight hunger and poverty. The three-mile charity walk is one of more than 800 CROP Walks across the country this year and is organized by volunteers from local faith groups and community organizations. Participants also will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nation's first CROP Hunger Walk.

"Hunger is very real in our community," said April Heiple, co-chairwoman of the CROP Walk and executive director of Food and Shelter. "Many Norman school children rely on the free and reduced lunch program for their daily nutrition. Without adequate food in their pantries, their families rely on our community to ensure their children do not go to bed hungry. One simple way you can be part of the solution is by supporting the CROP Walk."

CROP Walk teams include churches, student groups, businesses, community organizations, families and friends. Individuals are welcome to join and register on the day of the walk. Walkers are asked to turn in their donation envelopes at the registration tent. Individuals can also register and donate at crophungerwalk.org/normanok.

Before the walk, participants can enjoy face painting for kids, musical entertainment by Norman Public School's Manyawi World Music Ensemble and the children's sidewalk chalk art contest.

The 1 p.m. "Chalk the Walk for Hunger" will be hosted by members of Norman Public Schools' Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. "Helping the Hungry, Making a Difference" is the theme of the art contest, which is open to children and teens up to 18. Group and individual entries are welcome. A suggested donation of high protein foods, such as peanut butter or canned tuna, will be donated to the food pantry at Food and Shelter. Chalk will be provided, and prizes will be awarded by age category.

At 2 p.m., members of local school and church choirs will launch the walk by singing the African marching song "Siyahamba." The after-walk celebration will include a hot dog cookout provided by First United Bank and live music provided by the Songwriters Association of Norman. Water stations along the route will offer water and restrooms, as well as water bowls and treats for leashed pets.

Former Norman Mayor Lynn Miller is donating rocking chairs for "CROP Rock," an opportunity for those who can't physically participate in the three-mile walk but want to contribute and join the festivities. CROP Walk T-shirts will be available for $15 each on walk day and will be awarded free to each walker who raises $100 or more in walk donations.

Twenty-five percent of CROP Walk proceeds will be donated to Norman's Food and Shelter Inc., which provides housing for homeless families and individuals, free meals and other vital services to those in need. The remaining proceeds support the international hunger-fighting and development projects of Church World Service. Although not affiliated with a particular church, the nonprofit agency's efforts are supported by a coalition of over 35 denominations and faith groups.

Church World Service programs in the developing world focus on self help, economic and environmental sustainability, strengthening local communities and building self-reliance.

CROP Walk sponsors are Ad Specialties & More, Arvest Bank, Campus Camera Club of OU, Community of Christ Church, Dental Design Studio, FCCLA of Norman, First Baptist Church, First Christian Church, First Congregational Church of Norman-UCC, First Presbyterian Church, First United Bank, Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma, Goodrich Memorial United Methodist Church, Grace Fellowship, Greg Heiple, LaNoy Tag Agency, Legend's Restaurant, Manyawi World Music Ensemble, McFarlin United Methodist Church, Memorial Presbyterian Church, Morning Star Center for Spiritual Living, New Hope Christian Church, Norman Music Institute, Norman Parks and Recreation, Norman Singers, Norman Transcript, NorthHaven Church, Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Republic Bank & Trust, Sandalwood & Sage, Second Wind Coffeehouse, Sergio's Italian Bistro, St. John's Episcopal Church, St. Michael's Episcopal Church, St. Stephen's United Methodist Church, Sweet Basil, Therapy in Motion, University Lutheran Church and West Wind Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

For more information, call 620-1305 or visit clevelandcountycropwalk.org.

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