Inaugural charity walk kicks off at Phoenix Zoo - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

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Inaugural charity walk kicks off at Phoenix Zoo

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Posted: Friday, January 7, 2011 2:00 pm

It was her first time organizing a walk for charity, but Darla Gonzalez feels that it is meant to be.

Gonzalez, who runs the charitable organization A Service Heart, along with Barb Kenney will be hosting the first Love Walk 5K at Phoenix Zoo on Saturday, Jan. 22.

The proceeds from the 5K will be split between two charitable organizations, Hand of Hope World Missions and Phoenix Dream Center, both of which have a special meaning for Gonzalez and Kenney. The two met at a conference for Joyce Meyer Ministries, of which Hand of Hope is part, and discussed what it would take to start a productive and successful charity.

"Neither of us had owned a nonprofit and knew how to collect money or anything like that," Gonzalez said. "But we had a website and wanted to do something to help be a part of (Joyce Meyer Ministries)."

Kenney was the one who came up with the idea to do a walk for charity.

"(Kenney) is very health and fitness oriented," she said. "It made sense because it encompassed everything: fitness, charity, a community event. It made sense to do a 5K."

The Love Walk 5K can take up to 2,000 participants (limited by the amount of parking spaces at the Phoenix Zoo), and 75 percent of the proceeds will benefit Hand of Hope and 25 percent for the Phoenix Dream Center.

Hand of Hope is a faith-based ministry that does several things for impoverished people around the world, including aiding victims of human trafficking, running orphanages and feeding 23.8 million people in 2009.

The Phoenix Dream Center is a charitable organization located in Phoenix that acts as a safe-haven for homeless people. The organization provides clothing, education, food and shelter for the homeless.

"With Hand of Hope being global and Phoenix Dream Center being local, we thought it was a great idea to help on both fronts," Gonzalez said. "We want to bring awareness, not just bring money but awareness for what these great organizations are doing."

Ahwatukee Foothills resident and sponsor of the event Brenda Williams said when she met Gonzalez she immediately saw her passion for helping others.

"When I first met her, she thought I was someone else and came rushing up to me talking about her idea to start a charity and the vision she had for it," Williams said. "Her passion for it was overwhelming, and I definitely wanted to be a part of it... It really touched all of our hearts to support (Hand of Hope)."

What drives her, Gonzalez said, is the idea that she is able to do something to help others.

"The mantra of the walk is ‘refuse to do nothing,' and I think that speaks volumes to our commitment," she said.

The Love Walk 5K is open to the public and can be registered for online, The cost to enter is $20 for adults, $15 for children and $100 for families of six or more.

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