About 30 people set out to walk from a small St. Croix River city to St. Paul on Friday as part of a three-day journey to raise money to send 22,000 books to Somalia.
“I’m supposed to be leading this walk,” joked Books for Africa founder Tom Warth, 79, who was somewhere near the end of an ever-widening cavalcade of walkers on a country road near the Chisago County river town of Taylors Falls. Their first destination was Scandia, in northern Washington County.
Warth began the book drive 25 years ago with a mission to end the book famine in Africa. Since then, the nonprofit organization has collected and shipped 30 million books to students in 49 countries and is the largest shipper of educational books to Africa.
To promote the cause and to raise funds, Warth has walked across the Gambia in West Africa, walked from Lake Michigan to the South Dakota border, walked from the Canadian border to Iowa, walked from Menomonie, Wis., to St. Paul, and climbed Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa.
“Even with all the books shipped so far, there are still 450 million children and a total African population approaching 1 billion, so we have much more work to do to end the book famine,” Warth said.
On Saturday, walkers will leave Scandia and continue through William O’Brien State Park and Jackson Meadow Trails to the Outing Lodge at Pine Point Park in May Township. On Sunday, the last leg of the 50-mile walk will follow the Gateway State Trail into St. Paul.
The walk ends with a 4 p.m. celebration at the State Capitol steps. Attending will be U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis; Mahamed Cali, executive director of the Somali American Community of Minneapolis; Brett Feldman, executive director of the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota, and members of the Somali and African diaspora in the Twin Cities.
Students from St. Paul City School, a charter school, and Taylors Falls Elementary School as well as a youth group from the White Bear Lake Unitarian Church will join the walk at various locations. Anyone can join the walk at any time, Warth said.