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The Annual Help the Homeless Walk ( took place Washington, DC this morning. There are an estimated 25,000 people homeless in the DC area each year. Many of them are children.

The walk was started by Fannie Mae employees 12 years ago. That year 150 people walked. This year it was in the thousands.

It was a terrific event. The Fannie Mae Foundation made a real effort to involve young people and it worked. I saw Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, a youth soccer team, school groups, church youth groups, college students, and lots of kids with their parents. There were people of all ages and races and a number of people with disabilities. Everyone was smiling and cooperative and didn't seem to mind the inevitable hassles that arise when you have an event with thousands of people. It was well organzied but we were quite a crowd.

The walk raises money for many charities in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. Some of them, like Habitat for Humanity, are well known. Others are smaller, local groups, like St. Luke's House, the rehab program for the homeless mentally ill that I walked for. Each walker chooses the charity he or she will walk for. That was educational for me. I learned a lot about the groups working in my community and surrounding areas and the approaches they are taking to the problems of the homeless.

It was definitely amusing. A walk through a beautiful area on a sunny fall day is always nice. Add Mia Hamm, hundreds of balloons and everything from a marching band to the winner of last night's poetry slam and it was a lot of fun.

In the past 11 years, over 75,000 people have walked and almost 11 million dollars has been raised. It looks like this year also did very well.

The charities use a wide variety of approaches in their work but the ones I'm familiar with expect their clients to work with them to improve their lives. I think their approachs are also sustainable.

I'm not familiar with the finances of all the charities but the ones I am familiar with do a good job with the moeny and are accountable. The Walk is sponsored by a number of corporations, foundations, law firms, etc. I haven't seen the financial statement for the walk itself but with organizations like Fannie Mae and KPMG among the key players, I'd expect the finances to be in good shape.

I know that it's after the nomination deadline. Also I think it's probably more appropriate for the Charity Drive to give to charities directly rather than to a fundraising event. But I would encourage Fools to participate in next year's walk here or in similar efforts in their communities. Also I think it would be great if The Motley Fool would be one of the partners next year. With offices in Alexandria, VA, it seems like a very Foolish thing to do.
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