Belfast Telegraph

Charity walkers head towards record

Thousands of walkers shed their socks and shoes to take a giant stride towards a world record.

Despite April showers, hardy participants packed the Stormont estate in Belfast to take part in what they hope was the largest ever barefoot walk.

The charity event was staged to raise awareness of the millions of people across the world who are too poor to own any footwear and so are regularly exposed to injury and soil-transmitted diseases.

John Kee, from organisers Summer Madness, said they were confident they had broken the current record of 2,500 walkers.

"We are delighted with the turnout and would like to sincerely thank everyone who participated," he said. "We had a wide range of people who took time out of their Easter holidays to help us, with walkers young and old, locals and tourists alike, all enjoying the fun. People from as far away as Canada even joined the attempt and many families made it a fun day out.

"We had to adhere to very stringent guidelines and are currently compiling all our video, photographic and written evidence to send to the Guinness Book of Records for verification. The current record was set in India by 2,500 people and we are hopeful that we have exceeded this number today and should have notification in less than a fortnight."

A number of charities were involved in the attempt including Stand By Me, Tearfund, Fields of Life, the Girls' Brigade, Big House Ireland, Damaris Trust and 3 Rock Youth.

Mr Kee added: "We hope that this attempt will help raise awareness of the difficulties faced by millions of people across the globe who go barefoot every day in all weathers and conditions and the devastating effects that something we all take for granted can have on others.

"For example in Ethiopia, around one million people are suffering from a debilitating and disfiguring disease, Podoconiosis, caused by walking in volcanic soil and in some developing nations, children are often not allowed to attend school without footwear, limiting their opportunity for education.

"We are delighted with the support shown from people from across the province. Northern Ireland has once again shown its big heart and hopefully we can showcase Northern Ireland as one of the world's best in championing the needs of others."

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