With state budgets being slashed and two propositions on the upcoming November ballot that could drastically affect education spending, organizers said Sunday's annual Skechers Pier-to-Pier Friendship Walk is as important as ever.
Now in its fourth year, the friendship walk has raised a collective $1.2 million for South Bay school districts as well as special needs programs for the Friendship Circle organization.
"I think every year is important, but especially this year in an election year, things have the potential to change," said Jill Jensen, the manager of events and outreach at the Skechers Foundation.
According to Skechers, the money raised in previous years has helped retain educational programs, maintain smaller class sizes and upgrade classroom technologies—all of which are affected by state budget cuts.
This year, organizers hope to raise at least another $600,000 and are expecting 10,000 participants in the 3.4-mile walk from the Manhattan Beach Pier to the Hermosa Beach Pier and back, organizers said.
Along the way participants will be treated to bands and performances from local groups. Legendary baseball Hall of Fame manager and former Dodger Tommy Lasorda and Dancing with the Stars co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet will serve as the official hosts.
"There are so many people; there are so many smiling faces and I just think it is a testament to how this community embraces it," said Jenson about the community's support. "To see them completely support the walk and support one another ... It is just a really beautiful and exciting thing to see."
Jensen said that participation is the largest factor Skechers uses to determine how much money each organizatoin receives. One hundred percent of all registration fees and any subsequent donations go straight to the organization of the participant's choosing.
In addition, Jensen said that Skechers then looks at how many walkers from each district participated, breaks that number down to a percentage and then allocates funds based on that number.
For the Peninsula Education Foundation in Palos Verdes, which sent more than 2,100 walkers to last year's Friendship Walk, the $88,000 check it received from Skechers accounted for the foundation's largest single donation ever.
"For us, a gift of $88,000 is hugely impactful for our school district," said Peninsula Education Foundation executive director Andrea Sala. "It made a huge difference for us last year ... It is an incredibly big gift for us."
This year, Sala said they hope to send 3,000 walkers to the event and have been hard at work recruiting Palos Verdes residents to participate.
"We really get into it and really want to try to win, so to speak," Sala said. "We like to tell parents, 'It is $25 to walk, but the return on your investment for the schools to get $88,000 is a good investment.'"
In addition to the $88,000 raised for Palos Verdes, Jensen said last year's Friendship Walk raised approximately $77,000 for Manhattan Beach schools, $27,000 for Hermosa Beach, $41,000 for Redondo Beach and more than $200,000 for the Friendship Circle.
In Redondo Beach, Jensen said that the funds raised at the Friendship Walk helped Alta Vista Elementary School build a new library.
Sunday's event kicks off at 8 a.m. with registration at the Manhattan Beach Pier, and the official walk begins at 10:00 a.m.
For those wishing to participate, registration is available online at the Friendship Walk website or in person the morning of the event. Registration is $25 before and $30 on the day of the event. It includes a commemorative T-shirt and goody bag