Bright and early Saturday morning, about 175 people from the Gila Valley participated in the fifth annual Salsa Walk, benefitting the Boys and Girls Club of the Gila Valley. Both the number of participants and the dollar amount raised were astonishing improvements over the previous year's numbers; between "walkers" and those who simply contributed monetarily, more than $18,000 was raised for the Boys and Girls Club.
"The turnout was amazing and reassured us that the Gila Valley wants to see good things happen for its kids," said Aimee Staten, the new director of the Club.
More than 20 teams have been on the fund-raising trail for several weeks, approximately 19 more than participated last year. Some gathered long lists of sponsors, while others dug deep into their own pockets to show their support for the club. “No matter the source, these vital donations will go a long way in keeping important programs for Valley children afloat,” Staten said.
Staten and Club Board President James Bryce presented awards for participants' accomplishments, ranging from the top dollar earner to most participants in a single team.
Valerie Stahl of Safford won Top Fund-raiser after handing over $10,220 for the kids. Her efforts earned her respect and gratitude, as well as a $500 check.
The second-highest grossing participant was Krystle Dominguez, who earned $1,880, and received $200 for her efforts.
"We were honored to be part of this worthwhile event and have donated our cash prize back to the club. I look forward to the club’s success in the future!" Dominguez said.
The lively youth group from the Harvest Tabernacle won the Salsa Spirit award. The "Neon Ninjas" made the entire three-mile trek in their costumes, singing, dancing and performing their special ninja moves as they went. Still in their costumes, the animated group accepted the plaque and trophy on stage at the SalsaFest.
"Zest of DSS" (a group from Dorothy Stinson School) won the Sizzling Sole Award, for the most feet (soles) on the ground. Their group boasted 40 members.
The Señor Salsa award — for best costumes — was awarded to the United Methodist Women's Salsa Walkers for their solidarity and sombreros.
Mike Gaines, who was a Gila Valley club kid then a staff member before being hired as executive director, was given an award of recognition and a vote of gratitude for his service to the Gila Valley Boys and Girls Club at the pre-walk ceremony by Bryce.
Many other teams made significant contributions to the large sum collected by the Salsa Walk, including the Eastern Arizona Courier, which contributed $1,200.
"This Salsa Walk proves that our community is concerned with the well-being of our young people," Staten said.