California Man and Pooch to Walk 500 Miles in Aid of Tsunami Orphans

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A Sonoma County realtor and his 7-year old Labrador will walk from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise funds for tsunami orphans and displaced children. The 500-mile walk, to begin on Sept. 12 at the Lucasfilms headquarters at the San Francisco Presidio will take 13 days to complete. The walk organized by the non-profit Kids of Hope is expected to attract walkers along the route. Part of the proceeds will be donated to a tsunami animal rescue-and-care project in Sri Lanka.

A 13-day, unique walkathon to raise much-needed funds for orphaned and displaced children in tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka will be undertaken by a Sonoma County realtor and his seven-year old Labrador.

David Cohen and Molly will start on September 12 from Lucasfilm’s Golden Gate Bridge and make their way to Southern California with the goal of raising funds for Kids of Hope, a California-based public charity that is raising funds for tsunami-impacted disabled and homeless children in Sri Lanka.

An avid sportsman, Mr. Cohen has walked several miles a day for the last year. Now he hopes to put his training to work in raising funds for charity. "I have always been sensitive to children’s issues," says Mr. Cohen, "And have become even more concerned about the fate of those left orphaned after the tsunami. I am hopeful that with this walk I make a difference in the lives of Sri Lanka youth."

Joining Mr. Cohen on his walk will be his dog Molly, who herself overcame a disability at birth to walk daily at her master’s side. In honor of Molly, 10% of the funds from the walk will be directed to helping programs in Sri Lanka that are caring for pets who became separated or lost their owners in the aftermath of the disaster.

This ‘man and his best friend’ walkathon will wind its way from Letterman Digital Arts Center which houses Lucasfilm’s to a venue in Southern California, with stops at several major cities and where local residents will be joining for shorter distances. Among the cities on the itinerary are Mountain View, Sunnyvale, San Jose, Gilroy, San Luis Obispo, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Lompoc, Oxnard, Santa Monica, Torrance, and Anaheim.

The Sambodhi Orphanage and Home for the physically and mentally disabled in Galle, Sri Lanka will be among the main beneficiaries of the event’s proceeds. The home was virtually destroyed by six-foot waves, and then looted in the ensuing chaos. Fully half of the 102 residents at Sambodhi were swept out to sea and drowned, most of them handicapped and tied to their beds.

"Besides causing devastation and taking thousands of lives, the tsunami has brought to light the sad plight of the inmates at homes such as Sambodhi. The fact that there were dozens of handicapped children tied to their beds, unable to escape, should open our eyes to the horror and the need to ensure that no child is ever condemned to such a fate," said Hassina Leelarathna, Executive Director and founder of Kids of Hope.

UNICEF estimated that about 12,000 Sri Lankan children died in the Boxing Day tragedy. In all, over 40,000 people lost their lives in Sri Lanka and nearly a million people were displaced. Six months after the disaster, thousands still live in makeshift plastic tents along the country’s coastal belt.

Mr. Cohen expects his marathon walk will draw enough support to fix the orphanage in Sri Lanka. "These kids really need help. We cannot continue to just let them suffer."


Gary Satanovsky

Kids of Hope


Kids of Hope is a program of the Sri Lanka Express Foundation, a California public charity.

15500 West Erwin Street, #162,

Van Nuys, CA 91411


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