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Young volunteers launch Twin Cities PADS fundraiser

Alax Browning
Alax Browning

STERLING – The Hiking For The Homeless fundraiser for Twin Cities PADS is Saturday, thanks to the first steps taken by some young volunteers.

The 4-mile walk and fun fair was the brainchild of several teens, all spring graduates of Sterling and Newman Central Catholic high schools. Some of the volunteers were introduced to the homeless shelter to fulfill community service projects for their National Honor Society requirements. The shelter quickly became much more than a requirement.

“It started as hours we needed, but we really enjoyed it,” Sterling High School graduate Mary Toth said. “It was something as friends we could do together, and it was such a good use of our time.”

As the young volunteers spent more time at the shelter, they found themselves wishing they could do something to keep it open year round. PADS is open from Oct. 1 to May 1, and closes for the summer. Saturday’s event started as a means toward that goal.

“We took the idea to Mr. Newberry [executive director Myles], and then Mary and I went in front of the board about it,” Sterling High grad Alax Browning said.

The teens learned a hard lesson about financial realities, as the board told them it wasn’t feasible to open the shelter during the warmer months.

“Over 5 months, we get maybe a dozen calls,” Newberry said. “It takes eight to 10 people to run things over the course of an evening. We just have to direct people to a different agency over the summer.”

The volunteers shook off their disappointment and decided to forge ahead with the fundraiser to get everything in order before the shelter opens again.

Newberry has walked for PADS before – last year, he trudged 100 miles with no one to keep him company. He raised money by taking pledges for his journey.

“I thought this event would be easier with a set location, and we have a place to do some other fun things, too,” Newberry said. “I took what they were thinking and combined it with things we were doing.”

This year’s walk will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sterling High School track. There will be a silent auction, raffles, a bake sale, a bounce house and other fun activities for the kids. Canned goods will be accepted for the Sauk Valley Foodbank.

Working with the homeless wasn’t an entirely new experience for Mary and Alax. Both girls have been on eye-opening mission trips with their churches.

Mary spent time last summer in Memphis, Tennessee, with the Sacred Heart youth group. While there, she worked with the homeless, spending much of her time at a camp for the children.

Alax went to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with a mission group from Harvest Time Bible Church in Rock Falls.

“We worked with mainly inner-city kids at camp,” she said. “They were much less fortunate than I was used to seeing.”

The girls will be off to school soon, but they hope to continue volunteering wherever their lives taken them. They are saddened by what they perceive to be a misunderstanding of the homeless.

“Many people think they are in this situation because they chose it,” Alax said. “For many of the homeless, things happened beyond their control, and they had no other option at the time.”

Hiking For The Homeless

The 4-mile walk and fun fair is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Sterling High School track. The entry fee is $15 a person, or $40 for families. Canned goods will be accepted for the Sauk Valley Foodbank; donors receive a bottle of water for the walk.

To sign up, visit the shelter's website at, or register at the event.

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