Skechers ‘Friendship Walk' to Raise Funds for Students with Special Needs

The event next Sunday seeks to raise $2 million for education and students with special needs.

Celebrities and community members are expected to come out for Skecher's 11th annual "Pier to Pier Friendship Walk" on Sunday, Oct. 27, an event aimed at raising millions of dollars for education and children with special needs.

The event has raised $11 million over the years and seeks to raise $2 million this year. Celebrities such as former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, as well as Nickelodeon and Disney stars, will attend the walk. "America’s Got Talent" winner Kodi Lee will also be performing, while NBCLA reporter Lolita Lopez will kick off the morning program.

The walk begins next to the Manhattan Beach Pier and stretches to the Hermosa Beach Pier before looping back around — a total distance of about 3.5 miles.

Joe Newman, who attended the event last year, is involved with the Friendship Foundation, one of the six organization Skechers supports. The nonprofit also connects children with special needs to student volunteers.

When the Friendship Foundation started working with a club at Mira Costa High School, something changed in the students the organization worked with, according to Yossi Mintz, its executive director.

"All of a sudden, they had a voice. They had a friend," he said. "They walked around; people recognized them. It gave them an opportunity to become a part of the beauty of a childhood."

Friendship Foundation clubs can now be found in 40 schools, impacting 1,800 students. Something as simple as a movie night, Mintz explains, can give children a sense of community — and parents a rest.

"It's magic," he said. "There's magic in the air. And that's the beauty of what happens here."

Trevor Sargeant, a volunteer with the Friendship Foundation, throws birthday parties and plays UNO with the other students every week.

"It's just so fun… it's just transformed my life," he said. "It's changed me for the better."

"I love having the chance to put smiles on faces," he added. "That's why I come. It's infectious. If you're helping someone else and you're doing everything you can to make them happy, they genuinely really appreciate it. And if you're helping other people, you feel good in return."

The looks on the kids' faces are something other Friendship Foundation partners highlight.

"I would say smiles and friendships [are my favorite part of being around the kids], and them knowing that there loved and got friends out there," said Skechers president Michael Greenberg.

Those smiles are why he says he's on a mission to encourage more walkers to raise more money – which means more children are helped.

"It makes a world of difference. It changes the spirit within them," Greenberg said.

"We're giving these children back their childhood," Mintz added.

The Friendship Walk, its organizers say, connects children from different and unique backgrounds together, including Newman, who hopes to attend the event again.

"In a world that's so divisive, so bickering, and coming together for love — not about yourself — makes us unique, and it brings the best out of everybody," Mintz said.

Registration costs $35 the day of the event and $30 before, and includes a t-shirt and gift bag. For more information about the event and check-in locations, or to donate, click here.

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