America’s Got Talent winner Kodi Lee leads Skechers Pier to Pier Friendship Walk in Manhattan Beach

West Torrance High cheer leaders cheer on walkers during the 11th Annual Skechers Pier to Pier Friendship Walk. Photo

Sugar Ray Leonard, winner of five weight division titles and one the greatest fighters of all time, with Friendship Foundation’s Jacob Martinez and Sylvia Martinez. Photo

Last May, 22-year-old blind, austic singer and keyboard player Kodi Lee won the “America’s Got Talent” Golden Buzzer Award for his performance of Leon Russel’s “Singing a Song for You.” 

 After his performance, the show’s often caustic judge Simon Cowell told Kodi, “Thank you. I will remember this moment for the rest of my life.”

Sunday morning, on a stage at the foot of the Manhattan Beach pier, to kick off  the 11th Annual Skechers Pier to Pier Friendship Walk, Kodi sang Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.” For the estimated 14,000 walkers, it was also a moment they would remember for the rest of their lives.

Kodi’s  performance underscored the purpose of the Skechers Walk. Proceeds benefit the Friendship Foundation, which matches special needs kids with classmates at local schools. The Friendship Foundation was founded in 2009 by Rabbi Yossi Mintz and Skechers CEO Michael Greenberg. Over the past decade, the walk has raised nearly $10 million. Proceeds also benefit South Bay school district education foundations.

The walk is the largest fundraiser in the country for special needs children. This year’s sponsors included Nickelodeon, NBC and Turkish Airlines. Sugar Ray Leonard, a five-division boxing champion, former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda and fitness trainer Denise Austin were among the supporting celebrities. Entertainers who joined Kodi on the pierhead stage  included America’s Got Talent quarter finalists GFORCE, and Disney Rapper Issac Ryan Brown.

Hermosa Beach Education Foundation supporters. Photo

The walk, despite its growing stature, has retained its small town character. The vast majority of the walkers, stepping to the beat of the Mira Costa High Marching Band drumline, were from local schools and businesses. They were cheered along the way by high school cheer squads from El Segundo, Mira Costa, Redondo, Torrance and Palos Verdes. The Mira Costa High Marching Band drumline set the pace. ER

Photos by Kevin  Cody


comments so far. Comments posted to may be reprinted in the Easy Reader print edition, which is published each Thursday.