Last Wednesday, the band Hanson visited Drake University’s campus. Their message, however, went beyond just their music.
Hanson became famous in 1997 for their popular hit single “MMMBop.” After more than 10 years of success in the music world, these brothers are doing more than just changing American music. They are fighting to make an impact on the world.
Zac, 23, Taylor, 25, and Isaac Hanson, 27, traveled to Africa before releasing their fourth album “The Walk” in the summer of 2007. What they witnessed on their trip inspired them to take action against AIDS and poverty in Africa.
“When we took that trip to Africa, we were blown away,” Taylor said. “There are so many solutions that are available. It comes down to a pair of shoes or a $.33 drug that a mother who has HIV needs to not pass on AIDS to her child.”
The numbers alone made it clear to Hanson that something needed to be done. Thirty-five million people die from AIDS every year. There are 14 million children orphaned because of AIDS, and this number is expected to increase to 25 million by 2010. Hanson knew they needed to make a difference and fight the disease.
“We want to be a generation of action, not a generation of awareness,” said Isaac, the oldest of the brothers. “Awareness is great, but it does not evoke the necessary change that needs to happen on the issue that we’re talking about.”
And Hanson is talking action in a big way. The brothers began “The Walk Around the World Tour” in September of this year. In every city that Hanson performs a concert, they also walk a mile barefoot. Fans are encouraged to join Zac, Taylor and Isaac as they walk in each city. Walking barefoot, though not required, encourages walkers to connect with the children in Africa who don’t have shoes.
“It’s Drake University’s campus – we’re not gonna die,” Isaac said. “It’s not that big of a deal, but at the same time, it is a big deal. Psychologically, we’re comfortable. We’re used to shoes, and so when you remove that everyday comfort and you recognize the needs that exist in the world, all of a sudden you go, ‘Oh, wait a second, well if something like a pair of shoes is that simple, maybe there’s a lot of simple things I can be a part of.’ So that action breeds more action.”
For every person who joins the band on a walk, Hanson donates $1 to one of five goals that the walker may choose. The brothers determined five main goals at the beginning of their campaign, two of which have already been achieved.
One goal already met was to raise enough money to build a clean-water well in Kenya. The second task already accomplished by the Take a Walk Campaign was providing cell phone technology to AIDS patients so that they could contact their doctors when necessary. Three goals remain: to provide medicine for people infected with HIV, to build a new school in Kenya and to provide shoes for people around the world.
The walk on Drake’s campus was the 104th one Hanson and their fans have taken across the country. It was raining and windy, but more than a hundred students joined Hanson for their walk around campus.
Taylor stressed to walkers and Drake students how significant their actions were.
“We’ve walked through rain, we’ve walked through snow and we’ve walked through blistering heat,” he said. “The idea of these walks is that you guys need to understand that no matter what you do today, you will be making a difference for issues in Africa through your one mile.”
Since the start of the tour, Hanson has announced another goal: they want to walk around the world. There are 24,902 miles around the world and Hanson hopes that many people will take the walk. To date 11,589 people have participated, which means only 13,313 miles and people are left to go.
If you want to take action but missed the walk at Drake, there are many ways you can still help. Hanson released a charity single on iTunes called “The Great Divide.” All of the proceeds from purchasing this song go directly toward providing medicine for people infected with HIV.
Hanson has also teamed up with a company called Tom’s Shoes. For every pair of shoes purchased from Tom’s Shoes, the company donates a pair to someone in need. The initial goal of 50,000 shoes was met in November of 2007, and shoes are continuing to be delivered across the world.
Finally, anyone across the world can host a walk of their own. If you register your walk at takethewalk.net, Hanson will still donate a dollar for everyone who walks a mile for the cause.
“The whole mission of the Take the Walk Campaign is to turn walkers into leaders and to give them the tools to ultimately impact the world around them just by proving their willingness to act,” said Isaac. “To quote Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Anyone can be great because anyone can serve.'”
After their walk, Hanson also performed at People’s Court in downtown Des Moines Wednesday night.
The band Everybody Else opened the concert at 8:30 p.m., followed by singer Matt Wertz. Hanson took the stage at about 10:30 p.m. to the screaming chants of dedicated fans. The brothers started with their most popular rock songs, switched to an acoustic set halfway through the show and ended with a bang.
They played an excellent variety of music from their latest album “The Walk” and their classic hits that brought them to fame. The crowd especially went crazy, though, over “MMMBop” and “The Great Divide,” the band’s recent charity single.
“This was my third Hanson concert,” Melissa Rodgers (B4) said, “and they just keep getting better.”
The Hanson brothers are continuing to impact the world through their music and their actions. They ended their concert by thanking students and fans for taking the walk at Drake and stating that anyone can make a difference.