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Pair Circling Isle on Foot to Combat Meth Use

Star Advertiser, May 29, 2011

You may see them today or Monday walking along a road close to a shoreline — two women wearing white baseball caps that say "Meth Not Even Once."

They'll be moving briskly as they're on a mission and under a deadline.

Natasha Gray, 29, and Alexandra Lavers, 25, are trying to raise awareness about the use of meth in Hawaii.

The two are planning to walk the perimeter of Oahu, a 134-mile trek, in three days in the hope of raising $13,400, or $100 for every mile, for the Hawaii Meth Project.

They started their journey before dawn Saturday at Kapiolani Park, but the real journey began about eight months ago.

That's when Gray, a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, was looking for a way to contribute to the community. She liked the Hawaii Meth Project because it dealt with something that has a large impact in Hawaii and with helping teens.

She asked her friend Lavers to help. Lavers, who was already looking for a way to volunteer, appreciated how effective the Meth Project has been, winning national recognition for its striking ads about the risks of meth use, and wanted to address the impact of ice on the community.

According to the Hawaii Meth Project, methamphetamine use in Hawaii has led to overburdened jails and increased foster care, health care and treatment costs. Most recent statistics show Hawaii ranked fifth in the nation for meth use by people 12 and older, and meth abuse costs the state about $500 million annually, according to the nonprofit.

Cindy Adams, the executive director, said the donation by Gray and Lavers will help with outreach and education.

"I think it's phenomenal," Adams said. "They've been so dedicated."

Gray and Lavers planned four events to raise money and attention for the Meth Project, including a garage sale, pau hana party and silent auction. So far, they've raised about $7,000. The work has been nonstop and turned the two into close friends, they said.

"You just have to set a goal and go for it," Lavers said. "You'll be surprised how much you learn from it and the response you get."

Gray said the community's response has been overwhelming and the amount of good will surprised her.

Today they will walk along the North Shore before eventually hiking around Kaena Point, walking down Farrington Highway and reaching their finish at Kapiolani Park Monday night.

But the walk was taking its toll. Gray already had two blisters on her toes. Just past Olomana Golf Links, James Simmons, Lavers' boyfriend, waited for them under some trees with refreshments. Gray grabbed string cheese while Lavers sipped water. Simmons said of Lavers' plan, "I thought she might not understand just how big (the island) is."

After a short break, the two headed off again at their brisk pace toward Kualoa, their finish line for the day.

To donate, go to hawaiimethproject.org and click on "Fighting Meth With Miles." Follow on Twitter at @FightMethWMiles.