5,000 Join in Walkathon for Vietnam


Nearly 5,000 Vietnamese Americans came together Sunday to show their support for victims of a recent typhoon that ravaged their former homeland.

The walkathon in Mile Square Regional Park was to benefit victims of Typhoon Linda, which ravaged the coast of southern Vietnam in November, leaving 3,700 dead and tens of thousands homeless.

The marchers, most of them young Vietnamese Americans who are active in community groups and churches, raised nearly $50,000, organizers said.


“I think it’s a great cause,” said Adam Le, a 26-year-old Westminster resident who participated with his Aikido Dojo karate group. “It’s a great way to come here and show support for our community.”

The fund-raiser, which began at 10 a.m. and continued through midafternoon, was planned two months ago after the deadly typhoon ripped through the Asian nation, organizer Chi Nguyen said.

“We want to join hands and help out our people,” Nguyen said. “We are always with them.”

Before Sunday’s contributions, the local chapter of the International Red Cross already had raised $30,500 for typhoon victims, agency officials said.

Because many of those affected lived in villages of straw and palm huts, the powerful storm easily blew their homes away, organizers of the relief effort said. Winds estimated at more than 80 mph destroyed 100,000 homes, and dozens of villages were wiped out in southern Vietnam.

The International Red Cross estimated damage at $200 million.

The storm, considered the worst natural disaster to hit Southeast Asia in a century, has galvanized other Vietnamese American communities in cities such as Houston and San Jose.

“When they are in need, we all come together,” said Kieu Diem, 22, a member of the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Group, which contributed nearly $2,000 to the cause.


Local organizers said they were careful to avoid political controversy.

Last year, attempts to raise money for flood victims in northern and central Vietnam drew criticism from some people who regarded donations as tantamount to contributing funds to the Communist regime, organizers said.

This year, the walkathon committee planned the event independently of any political groups to try to avoid controversy, organizers said.

All the money raised by the marchers will be given to the International Red Cross, which has been trying to raise $4.2 million for the typhoon victims to avoid sending money through the government of Vietnam.

Those who walked Sunday said they did so strictly for humanitarian reasons.

“It’s my responsibility to help those who are less fortunate than me,” said 15-year-old Kelvin Vu of Westminster, who attended the event with his friends from the Tuoi Hoa youth group. “We know what we have to do to help our people.”