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With Others' Help, the Hungry Win in a Walk


LAGUNA HILLS — For a charity event, Sunday's South Orange County Walk For Hunger had an oddly familiar cast of characters.

There was a man named Ito peering over the crowd and giving instructions, there was a world-class athlete who first gained fame in the 1960s, and then, perhaps inevitably, there was a television cameraman.

"We have a little of everything, don't we?" said Fred Riggs, who helped organize the event, a seven-kilometer walk designed to raise money to feed hungry people in Orange County and around the world.

Among the 200 people on hand were Laguna Hills residents James and Toshi Ito, parents of Judge Lance Ito. James Ito was responsible for mapping out the course of the walk, and he stood in the back of a pickup truck to give participants directions before the afternoon event got underway.

The event, sponsored by a group of South County churches, attracted about 200 walkers and brought in $14,000 in donations, Riggs said. About 25% will go to local hunger relief organizations, including Saddleback Community Outreach and the Ecumenical Service Alliance.

The rest of the money will go to Church World Service, an organization that funds hunger-relief efforts worldwide and is run by the New York-based National Council of Churches.

Most participants chipped in some money themselves, but they got most of their donations from co-workers. Bob Erbeck, 47, a television cameraman at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, said his line of work gives him a slight advantage when it comes to fund raising.

"I just approached some of the stars, some of the producers, some of the big and small people on the shows," said Erbeck, who lives in Burbank but spends weekends in Orange County, where his girlfriend and parents live.

Erbeck accounted for $1,500 in donations, most of which came from members of the casts and crews of the various television shows he helps film, including ABC's "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" and Warner Bros.' new sitcom starring Kirk Cameron.

This is the second year in South County for the walk, and Erbeck has been the top fund-raiser both times, Riggs said.

"There are many causes out there, but this is the one I get caught up in," Erbeck said.

The walk has also become an annual event for Mary Reese, 55, a former world record-holder in the long jump who won a gold medal representing Great Britain in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Reese, whose last name was Rand during her Olympic years, raised about $320 by hitting up her co-workers at Sports Medicine, a rehabilitation clinic in Mission Viejo. Asked whether her track and field skills would be on display during the walk, she smiled and shook her head.

"Those days are gone," she said. "And besides, I'm a sprinter."

The South Orange County Walk For Hunger is one of about 2,000 such events that take place around the country annually, said Casey Howell, a regional director for Church World Service. Last year, the walks raised a combined $23 million.

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