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Walk for Hunger raises $3.1m, but falls short of goal

Sponsor hoped to exceed 2012 total of $3.6m

Pierreline Romain of Dorchester struck a celebratory pose in Arsenal Park in Watertown Sunday during Project Bread’s 20-mile Walk for Hunger.

PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF

Pierreline Romain of Dorchester struck a celebratory pose in Arsenal Park in Watertown Sunday during Project Bread’s 20-mile Walk for Hunger.

About halfway through last year’s Walk for Hunger, the annual fund-raiser for Project Bread, three Lexington High School sophomores made a decision: If they raised $3,500 for the 2013 walk, they would dress as Disney princesses.

The teens raised $4,036 — part of the projected $3.1 million raised by about 30,000 walkers in the 45th annual benefit for the antihunger organization.

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“We’ve been working on these costumes since, like, September,” said Abigail Mulligan, who walked the event’s 20 miles on Sunday while wearing a pale blue Cinderella costume with a tiara in her red hair.

She and her friends got through the long walk by singing Disney tunes.

“You give a part of yourself as well as giving money,” Mulligan said.

Ellen Parker, executive director of Project Bread, said she had hoped to match last year’s total of $3.6 million raised by 43,000 walkers.

This year’s proceeds fell short of expectations — possibly because public attention has been focused on victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, which rattled the city 20 days before the walk.

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“On April 16, we didn’t know what to expect, really,” Parker said. “And you can see, there’s this wonderful sense of community here, and people came out and raised more than $3 million for hungry people. And we did it after a series of events that for most of us was just unimaginable.”

Parker said the organization will have to make up the fund-raising shortfall to continue supporting all of its initiatives.

Those include food pantries and less traditional ways to fight hunger, such as having chefs teach school kitchen staffs or low-income parents about healthful eating, or funding urban and community-supported agriculture to improve nutrition.

“We will return to the community and find a way over the course of the next year to make up this funding,” Parker said. “After 45 years of this sort of sustained community response — that is wonderful, and the money that is raised for the One Fund [for Marathon bombing victims] is wonderful. And what the two things have in common is the heart that the people have in Massachusetts, and the compassion that they have for other people.”

The Walk for Hunger was the first large public event in Boston since the Marathon.

Many walkers noted a larger-than-usual police presence along the route from the Boston Common to Brookline, Newton, a slice of Watertown, Cambridge, then back over the Charles River to the Common.

Organizers asked walkers not to carry large bags.

Some participants were concerned about safety — one school group dropped out ahead of time — and wanted to know if organizers were taking extra precautions.

Michelle Tran of Franklin, a physician’s assistant, said she felt safe.

“All the cops were around — constantly around. Everyone was happy, and nothing looked suspicious,” she said.

Megan O’Neill of West Roxbury and her Boston College co-worker, Karen Peirce of Framingham, wore bright blue shirts with the words “Boston Strong” in yellow block letters.

The slogan appeared on shirts worn by many of the walkers — some with the Boston skyline, some with American flags, others with pictures of large blue-and-yellow ribbons.

Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com.

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