To Tom Warth, the oldest walker, the three-day, 50-mile hike to promote Books for Africa began to feel like work on that damp and dreary final day.
“The last day offset all the enjoyment of the first two,” said Warth, one of only five walkers to cover the full distance. “It was very bleak. The wind blew, and the rain was almost horizontal.”
Still, he walked all the way to St. Paul to raise the thousands of dollars needed to ship 22,000 books to Somalia.
“Generally exhausted” is how Warth described the aftermath. “My bones feel pretty good for a 79-year- old.”
The walk began April 25 in Taylors Falls, Minn., leading to Scandia. The next day’s trek ended at Pine Point Campground in May Township. The final leg, in pouring rain, followed the Gateway State Trail to St. Paul.
About 70 people participated in portions of the walk, said Warth, the organization’s founder and a Marine on St. Croix resident. About $15,000 was raised — about $2,000 more than was needed for this shipment — but the extra money will help pay for future shipments.
One man donated $10 for every mile and walked the entire distance, and several residents and motorists along the route gave money, Warth said.
The nonprofit organization has 1 million books stored in a warehouse in Atlanta with more in a warehouse in St. Paul.
Books for Africa has sent more than 30 million books over the years at a clip of about 3 million a year, but Warth said those numbers look small in the context of Africa’s 450 million children.
“We pat ourselves on the back, but we can’t be complacent,” he said of fundraising efforts.
Donated books include textbooks, children’s’ books, religious books and novels. Most of them are used. In the warehouses, they’re sorted into categories such as math, geography and primary reading, and shipped according to specific requests of the receiving countries.
Anyone wanting to donate can go to www.booksforafrica.org.
“We can accommodate any kind of charitable activity,” Warth said, explaining that the organization needs donated books, money to send books, and volunteers at the St. Paul warehouse.
To many African children, a book is a rare possession, he said.
“Can you imagine growing up and not holding a book? We need to get them books and we need to get them real books.”