Chris Danzer and Jake Thomas had a plan that was as daring as it was difficult: to walk the 91-mile-perimeter of Santa Cruz County, without stopping, in an effort to raise awareness about child hunger in the Santa Cruz community.
The trek began on March 1 at 9 p.m. Twenty-nine hours and 70 miles later, Danzer was forced to stop. Thomas, despite being hit by a car, was able to continue the grueling walk and made it to West Cliff Drive — the end of the journey — at about 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.
The trek had a two-fold purpose: to raise money to donate to anti-hunger organizations and to attract widespread attention to their cause by performing a grueling feat of endurance.
Danzer and Thomas are also attempting to start an endowment fund that would pay to feed hungry children in Santa Cruz County. They hope to attract a celebrity or other wealthy benefactors to help kickstart the endowment fund.
“We’re trying to start an endowment fund and with the right support from one big player, it could start with one pen stroke,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to get as many people as possible to like our Facebook page and share that video. It’s going to take us a little while to get the endowment fund set up, but it’s also going to take some time to reach the big players we want to reach.”
Danzer and Thomas both said child hunger in Santa Cruz is a problem that, while daunting, is easier to solve than many other worthwhile causes.
“The community has to take care of itself,” Danzer said. “We can’t depend on other people to take care of us. When we defined the number and did the math, it’s a very solvable problem. Instead of just trying to keep feeding kids, we can set up an endowment fund and the money they would give to kids every month for food is a definable amount.”
Danzer and Thomas trained for the trek with a series of increasingly long practice walks. They faced both physical problems — including sore feet and dehydration — and mental struggles.
“The pain that comes from your joints and muscles that are seizing up is a constant pain and every step you take is a constant reminder that this hurts,” Danzer said. “It’s very difficult mentally because you’re fighting the cold, you’re fighting how long you’ve been out.”
Donations to the effort will be given to Grind Out Hunger, a Santa Cruz organization that aims to empower young people to lead efforts to stop child hunger and malnutrition, according to the organization’s mission statement.
Danzer and Thomas said the Santa Cruz community supports their effort.
“We’ve been given an incredible amount of press and community support is high,” Danzer said. “They wanted to do something for us, they’ve supported us in many ways.”
Danzer said the issue of child hunger is ever present and the community of Santa Cruz must be willing to fight against it continually.
“This is not just a problem of today,” Danzer said. “This is a problem of generations past and present.”