In the scorching sun, eager crowds gathered in Riehle Plaza on Sunday, many taking pictures with Jedis and princesses, some putting on face paint and ballooning animals for the 30th annual Hunger Hike.
The Hunger Hike raises funds for the Lafayette Urban Ministry, Food Finders and the Haitian Ministry of Saint-Thomas d’Aquin in an effort to fight hunger locally, regionally and globally.
The Lafayette Urban Ministry intends to use the funds for their food banks and food distribution programs.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet anniversary – bittersweet because you’re still fighting hunger, but sweet that the community is still supporting this for thirty years,” said Wes Tillett, executive director of the Lafayette Urban Ministry.
Food Finders intends to use the funds to provide food through various programs, from a mobile food pantry to food banks, to support hunger-related issues in the central region. northern Indiana.
“In the time of COVID, the need has skyrocketed, and it hasn’t diminished. It’s really worrying for me. Just as people were returning to work, inflation and high gas prices hit. Last month, we had an all-time high in our fresh produce pantry,” said Katie Bunder, CEO of Food Finders.
Bunder said money is the single most important resource Food Finders can receive to help Indiana citizens.
“We usually get around $30,000 from the Hunger Hike. It’s essential because sometimes we get a grant and we can only put it in a milk shipment or a food truck – with Hunger Hike we can put it where it’s needed most,” Bunder said. .
Another organization receiving funds from this event was the St. Thomas Aquinas Ministry. The ministry is located on the Purdue campus and has a sister parish in Delatte, Haiti.
“There is a need everywhere, but (Haiti) has extremely high inflation, like 40%. They’ve come out of some major hurricanes, and it’s a dire situation there,” said St. Thomas communications director Mary King.
The goal was to raise $100,000 and according to Tillett, the Hunger Hike achieved that goal. The funds raised are divided equally between the three organizations.
The ride started with several activity stations and events.
The event kicked off with a Zumba class, boosting attendees’ energy with upbeat pop songs. Live music from DJ Rat Pak Mobile filled the plaza as people moved around the plaza participating in a variety of activities, from taking pictures with Purdue Pete to face painting.
Tillet started the speeches, talking about the seriousness of the 30th anniversary of the Hunger Hike. Reverend Hillary Cooke gave an inspirational blessing on the event, asking God to help those in need, as many in the crowd bowed their heads in prayer. Finally, Indiana State Rep. Sheila Klinker and her daughter, Kelly Jacobs, sang a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Among the crowd was the Purdue Crew who had their boat on display for the event.
“As a coach, it’s my job to grow the team holistically,” said Jason Mitchell, assistant coach for the Purdue Crew team. “Wherever they come from, we can give back to the community. We spread the word on campus and raised funds for organizations.
110 Purdue Crew members led the trek, ferrying their boat to the Purdue Boat House, which was the turnaround point for the trek.
Women’s basketball coach Katie Gearlds represented the team at the hike. Due to NCAA regulations, the team had to have the day off.
“We’ll be doing our trek later this week as a team, I’m happy to represent our team, and anything we can do to give back to this city is important,” Gearlds said.