Nearly 200 enthusiasts hit Bowman's Beach on a cool Saturday morning to get a little exercise and do a lot for local children in need.
The Sanibel-Captiva Optimist Club's Jingle Bell 5K Walk brought out two- and four-legged walkers while raising money for children served by Friends in Service Here (F.I.S.H.) of Sanibel, as well as to fund Optimist college scholarships and its fishing program for kids.
The Jingle Bell Walk, which started as Wave of Hope walk, is in its fifth year and better than ever, said Stan Howard, Optimist president.
Susan Freeze of Plano, Texas, shows off the prizes of her Jingle Bell Walk on Bowman's Beach Saturday.
"We're going to have about as many walkers as last year," Howard said. "We're going to provide kids with school supplies and food for Christmas."
Optimist does countless services for the area, according to Dani Howard of Optimist, from scholarships to filling the food pantry.
"We provide six scholarships of $5,000 each, we do the CHR backpack program, the Junior Anglers, the basketball program in August and free lunch Friday at the rec. center," said Howard. "We just help wherever we can."
Walkers, who paid $20 each to participate, hit the beach at 8 a.m. and walked about 1.5 miles down the beach to the midway point and returned to the starting point Tables were set up along the way for anyone who wanted bottled water to rehydrate.
Among the walkers was Santa Claus, who looked svelte and ready to deliver toys to the world's children on Dec. 25.
"I couldn't get in and out of my sleigh last year and got stuck in a few chimneys," Santa said. "The Optimist Club is a great club. I made time this year to be on Bowman's Beach with them."
Joyce and Gary Miller learned about the walk in the paper, and brought their dog, Kit, for the trip.
"We like walking the beach. It's dog friendly and for a good cause," Joyce said. "It's the first time we've been here, so we're trying to take advantage of the holiday thing."
Bill Fellows, president of F.I.S.H., walked with his wife, Virginia, and had fun while supporting his cause, which is trying to meet the needs of those less fortunate in the area.
"We're appreciative of the Optimist Club for having the event. It has always been supportive of F.I.S.H.," Fellows said. "Every city has been impacted by the difficult economy. We have over 800 clients we're serving and 150 families using the food pantry."
After the walk, the recreation center held a free block party to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the facility.
For more about F.I.S.H., visit www.fishofsanibel.com.
For info on the Optimist Club, visit www.sancapoptimist.com.