A sea of orange shirts filled the National Mall on an unseasonably warm and sunny Saturday morning as close to 30,000 adults, children and students joined in the 16th Annual Help the Homeless Walkathon.

The Walkathon, organized by the Fannie Mae Foundation, is the country’s largest walkathon that raises awareness of and funds for homelessness as part of the Help the Homeless Campaign in the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

The 350 Georgetown students who attended Hoya Outreach Programs and Education raised at least $17,500, HOPE coordinator Meg acWhirter (SFS ’05) said.

“We had floors, clubs, community councils and groups of friends sign up together and everyone seemed to have a really great time,” she said.

For every walker that participated with HOPE, Fannie Mae donated $50 to homeless organizations. The foundation even invited HOPE to walk as friends of the foundation itself as part of its active encouragement for young people to get involved with the event.

Thirty members from the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity also represented Georgetown in the walk and their proceeds went to the ary House, a non-profit organization that rebuilds homes for the homeless. In addition, the $15 that each APO member donated was matched by Fannie Mae, which donated to the beneficiary organizations as well.

APO kept high morale as they walked the 5K course that started on the Mall, went west along Independence Avenue, around the Jefferson Memorial, past the Washington Monument and back up to the all.

“We sang the Georgetown Fight Song to keep us pumped, although no one else around really knew what we were doing,” APO member Danny Gude (COL ’07) said.

Both APO and HOPE were excited for the event and pleased with the strong Georgetown backing.

“We have been working throughout the semester to pull together logistics for this event and are very pleased with the level of support from the community,” MacWhirter said. “The Walkathon is always a success in how it brings us all together around the issue of homelessness.”

Both groups were very impressed with the high participation rate from Georgetown.

“It was great to see so many people, especially from Georgetown, since most kids don’t wake up till 1 or 2 p.m. on a Saturday,” Gude said.

In addition to the continuing enthusiasm from Georgetown, acWhirter was also amazed with the support from the greater Washington, D.C., community in the Walkathon and its continuing goal of raising awareness of homelessness.

“With people from all over the area and all walks of life, it is always exciting to see how many people are concerned about the cause,” MacWhirter said. “This event was so exciting because it truly got the support it deserved.”

The Help the Homeless program has become the largest funding collaborative focused on homelessness in the nation.

Altogether, the Walkathon raised about $6.5 million this year benefiting 173 non-profit beneficiary organizations that provide services to the homeless, according to the event’s organizers.

These organizations include those that provide food and support programs to the homeless, daycare to homeless children and medical services to those without insurance.

Fannie Mae created the Help the Homeless program to respond to the growing needs of homeless people in the Greater Washington etropolitan area. During the past 15 years, the Help the Homeless program has raised nearly $34 million for more than 220 organizations.

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