VALDOSTA -- Alden Minick, 7, arrived at Valdosta Middle School bright and early Saturday morning, eager to begin the Kiwanis Club of the Azalea City's 33rd annual Walk for Charity.

A second-grader at Sallas-Mahone Elementary School, Minick said she was walking for the Humane Society of Valdosta/Lowndes County.

"I like animals," she said. "The Humane Society takes care of them."

The 2003 event was her third.

Calvin Bryant was a first-time Walk for Charity participant.

"This is fantastic way for people to come together for a good cause," he said.

Bryant discovered the event while looking for a fun way to get a little cardiovascular exercise. He liked the idea of working on his fitness level while helping someone in need.

Amy Lankford walked for Kids' Chance, an organization that supports the pursuit of higher education for children whose parents have been injured or killed on the job in Georgia.

"It's a good organization," said the first-time walker.

Southeast Elementary School fifth grader Zion Wilson, another first-year participant, walked for LODAC.

"The people at LODAC help keep us drug-free," said the 12-year-old. "They do lots of good things."

The walk, which began promptly at 9:30 a.m. despite overcast skies and a light drizzle, took participants down Berkley and Azalea drives, Baytree Road, and Williams and Patterson streets.

More than 200 people walked to raise funds for their favorite local charity, includng the American Red Cross, Southside Recreation Center, Lowndes Associated Ministries to the People and The Salvation Army.

And at the end of the day, members of the Kiwanis Club of the Azalea City announced a total of $36,500-plus had been pledged. Last year, Walk for Charity organizers were able to distribute more than $29,000 to local charities.

Warren Coats, club treasurer, said the 2003 walk was definitely a big success.

"We look forward to participating in this event every year," said Cheryl Hatcher, president of the Humane Society of Valdosta/Lowndes County. "It is so much fun."

Her organization plans to use the funds they received Saturday to support a variety of ongoing programs, including foster care, emergency medical care, and low cost spay and neutering.

"We are just thrilled they do this every year," Hatcher added. "It's a great opportunity. The Kiwanis Club does everything to get the walk together. All we have to do is get some walkers and pledges and help make it a success."

The Kiwanis Club of the Azalea City is an affiliate of Kiwanis International, a thriving organization of service- and community-minded individuals who support children and young adults around the world. Members believe that children and local communities benefit from the efforts of a proficient group of caring and involved volunteers.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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