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Sunshine Expected For Most Participants in Hands Across America

May 24, 1986

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Scorching heat and thunderstorms were expected in spots, but President Reagan and most participants in Sunday’s Hands Across America probably will enjoy the sunshine and light winds of a late spring day.

Temperatures should top 100 degrees where the human chain against hunger crosses the California and Arizona deserts, meteorologist Ernest Paroczay said Friday.

And participants probably will contend with rain and thunderstorms produced by a cold front running from Texas to Kentucky.

But the National Weather Service forecast fair weather along most of the 16-state route from the California coastline, where sunshine and temperatures in the mid-70s are expected, to the White House grounds and north to New York, where temperatures should be near 80 degrees.

The project hopes to raise at least $50 million to buy food for hungry people by asking millions of people to contribute at least $10 each to join a line at 3 p.m. EDT Sunday.

While they hold hands, participants will sing ″America the Beautiful,″ ″We Are the World,″ and a song written for the event, ″Hands Across America.″

Between $25 million and $30 million has been pledged and the money keeps coming, said Dave Fulton, a spokesman for organizers here. Determining the exact total ″is like trying to take a snapshot of the Concorde in flight,″ he said.

Organizer Ken Kragen predicted that half or more of those who get in line will wait until Sunday morning to make up their minds. ″The line is infinitely expandable,″ he said.

For those who decide to join at the last minute, organizers will have 10 million pledge envelopes that can be returned at leisure. And the pledges won’t stop when participants release hands Sunday.

″We’ll continue to take donations,″ Fulton said. ″May 25th is just the beginning and not the end.″

The biggest weather worries were centered in the desert areas of Southern California and Arizona, where temperatures are likely to top 100.

Inclement weather and a shortage of volunteers forced organizers to accept gaps in those deserts and in New Mexico and Texas. They will be bridged by red and white rope.

Volunteer medical personnel will be pressed into service, as will recreational vehicles equipped with medical supplies and refreshments.

But participants will be on their own in some spots, including in parts of the desert, organizers said.

″We’re asking everyone to bring water and for everyone to bring hats and to dress in cool clothes,″ said spokeswoman Donna Campbell, based in Palm Springs. ″We don’t expect to have that much of a problem because they aren’t going to be out there that long.″

Reagan decided to join the chain after a family discussion Thursday night with his wife, his daughter Maureen and her husband, Dennis Revell, said presidential spokesman Larry Speakes.

He won’t be the only political figure in the line. Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh and his wife, Ginny, plan to join hands on Sunday outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, said Jeanne Schmedlen, spokeswoman for the governor.

Thornburgh will likely have Mrs. Thornburgh on one side and an actor dressed as Benjamin Franklin on the other, said Linda Santoro, a Hands Across America spokeswoman.

Throughout the nation Friday, organizers worked on last-minute preparations.

In Long Beach, workers set up a 15-foot mountain of food, which was donated by the Southern California Grocers Association and will be given away after the event.

In rural Cecil County, Md., organizers were working to line up boaters and divers to span the Susquehanna River. State officials refused to permit people to stand on bridges along the route.

Wisconsin Gov. Anthony Earl jogged Friday morning with runners from Minneapolis-St. Paul who are part of a 225-mile relay to link up with the Hands line in Springfield, Ill.

Illinois had about 250,000 people signed up, but was still missing about 150,000 links in its chain on Friday, organizers said.

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