LITTLE?VALLEY?-?When cold, wind-driven rain pelted down recently, prospects for the Cattaraugus/Little Valley CROP Walk plummeted.
But even though the weather stubbornly refused to improve by the 1:30 p.m. registration deadline, it became apparent that many dedicated walkers had decided to defy the elements.
"This is the first time we've done the walk in Little Valley," said Mrs. Kay Dobbertin, one of the CROP Walk's prime organizers.
Walkers in the Cattaraugus/Little Valley CROP Walk are pictured above. The walkers handed in more than $3,000 with a number of pledges still to come in.
Photo by Arvilla Pritchard
Eyeing the crowd that circled the registration table, she added she was thrilled by the good turnout, despite the nasty conditions.
"When I saw the weather this morning, I was pretty discouraged," she said, "but it looks like people are coming anyway."
As the walkers poured into the hall of the Little Valley Wesleyan Methodist Church, they twirled umbrellas and shook raindrops from their ponchos. In contrast to the gloomy weather, the people's mood seemed downright sunny.
As one woman said, "We (her children were with her) signed up to walk - and we're going to walk - and that's that. What's a little rain?"
Many other youngsters joined their parents for the walk, some clutching fistfuls of colorful CROP Walk balloons, which jounced and bounced with every step. For them, the foul weather appeared only to add to the fun. Or it might be that thoughts of the goody-laden refreshment tables awaiting their return, helped keep their spirits high.
Dobbertin explained that the walk itself would follow an elongated oval route.
A support vehicle was patrolling both routes, (except for the Pat McGee Trail, which is closed to motorized vehicles, to offer rides back to the church for any whose ambitions might over-reach their physical capabilities. She said water was also available to any who needed it.
CROP Walks have been going on around the United States for more than 40 years.
The first one ever may have been a relatively informal event held in Bismark, N.D., when, on Oct. 17, 1969, about 1,000 citizens gathered to raise money for food for hungry people. They walked to recognize the fact that, in developing countries, the indigenous people often must walk as many as six miles daily, simply to gather the necessary food, water and fuel to survive another day.
CROP stands for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty. Although CROP Walks help fight hunger and poverty worldwide, up to 25 percent of the money raised goes to help food pantries, community gardens and other hunger-fighting initiatives closer to home.
In Cattaraugus, for instance, Elizabeth O'Neill, manager of Trading Post South, said the annual walk is a very important source of money to the local operation.
"Money from the CROP Walk pledges has helped us out a lot in the past," she said. "This year, we're going to need it more than ever."
She said New York state recently chopped 50 percent off an anticipated annual grant to the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program.
"With the holidays coming on, we're really hurting," O'Neill continued. "It'll soon be our busiest time, and our shelves are looking awfully bare. Our share of the CROP Walk money will definitely be put to good use."