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Teenagers Find Blessing in Annual 30-Hour Fast

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A group of Valley teens committed themselves to a 30-hour fast and got a taste of what it’s like to go hungry--as many people around the world are forced to do.

“Thirty hours is nothing compared to all the struggles [others] go through,” said Kelly Bader, 18. “We have food waiting for us in the refrigerator.”

Kelly and 14 members of her church youth group were among 42,000 California teens taking part in the World Vision 30-Hour Famine, the eighth annual national fund-raising event for which students also perform a community service.

Participants drink only water and fruit juice.

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Last year about 500,000 young people across the United States participated in the project, raising $6.5 million for worldwide hunger relief programs. This year’s fast is expected to raise $8 million, the biggest total in the event’s history, organizers said.

From noon Friday through 6 p.m. Saturday, members of the Prince of Peace Episcopal Church youth group wrestled with personal hunger to earn pledge money from friends and family members.

The teens’ challenge began while they were still at school.

“It was pizza day. You could smell it,” Theresa Prescott, 16, sighed.

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So while the fasting teens stuck with water or juice at school, their classmates ate pizza, nachos, ice cream and fast-food goodies. Girl Scout cookies had also just been distributed.

After school, Lindsay Bush, 14, caught herself browsing the fridge for a snack, almost forgetting the fast.

“I did that, like, three times,” she said.

The group gathered at the Woodland Hills church for a sleepover Friday night. It was like a camp-out--without the s’mores--as they bedded down in the multipurpose room.

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Saturday morning, the teens wriggled out of their sleeping bags with an assortment of stuffed bears and Tickle-Me Elmo dolls after a night of music, prayer, movie and conversations about food.

Some were understandably grumpy, some were a little woozy, as they prepared to volunteer at a local social service organization.

They were not exactly the Donner party, but their thoughts, naturally, were on food.

“I keep thinking about chocolate, but then I realize I can’t eat it anyway, because I gave it up for Lent,” said Charlotte Anderholt, 14.

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For at least one of them, the fast had a hidden benefit.

“You get so hungry that you just start to miss, like . . . bread,” said Rosie Morgan, 15. “But in a way, it’s a blessing, because it makes you think of things you don’t like to eat that your parents make--like omelets--but they can’t force you to eat them because you’re fasting.”

It was a humbling experience for Casey Monroe, 16, who said he originally signed up because he could earn school credit for service hours.

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But it became more personal for him after hearing others count their blessings.

The fast was a way for them to renew their faith, some said.

“This is something physical you can really do for God,” Rosie said. “Sometimes prayer just doesn’t feel like you’re doing enough.”

The teens ended their fast Saturday night with a 6-foot submarine sandwich, ice cream and cookies.

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Times staff writer Caitlin Liu contributed to this story.


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