KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — “I couldn’t have imagined that,” “DogFather” Chris Voss said about the evolution of the Kalamazoo Hot Dog Walk.

The year was 2011. Three friends had no idea where to go for lunch, so they decided to eat a hot dog at multiple local restaurants while seeing who had the best one. After gaining some traction on social media — because who eats without posting a photo of it first — Voss and two friends Kevin King and Scott Swope hadn’t quite realized what they were in the early stages of creating.

“We started to get more and more comments of, ‘Wow, this is a great idea, when are you doing this again?'” Voss said. “We decided there was an audience for something like this.”

So the next time around, Voss says he, King and Swope decided to open it up to a circle of friends. They made T-shirts for it and the event began snowballing.

Since then, they’ve garnered so much interest that they’ve secured transportation via school bus to move those on the Hot Dog Walk from location to location. Voss said some people do drive separately and when the pandemic hit, the event also adopted a voucher format. 

Due to increased participation and community awareness, Voss, King and Swope, now coined the “DogFathers,” knew they had to use their platform to reach a crowd even larger than the one they had developed.

“It just really starts out with people doing something they enjoy and then realizing how it can connect and support the community,” Associate Director of Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes Greta Faworski said.

The partnership between the Hot Dog Walk and Loaves and Fishes, now in its 6th year, came about when the “Dogfathers” realized the luxury of eating all that food during the walk is something that simply isn’t an option for many people who may not be able to afford a meal. Through the walk, money is donated to Loaves and Fishes, the largest provider of charitable food assistance in the county who specialize in feeding the Kalamazoo community. 

The walk supports Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes. (Courtesy)

“The funds help us, especially going into summer, when there are lots of kids who will be getting out of school and facing a loss of school lunches and breakfast in the summer,” Faworski said. 

“The fight against hunger seemed like a logical fit,” Voss said.

The Hot Dog Walk is now it is 12th year and it has been a part of providing 75,000 meals to those in the Kalamazoo area through the partnership.

Voss said he and the “Dogfathers” live by three pillars:

  1. Does it support the community
  2. Does it support local business
  3. Is it fun?

He says they’ve been able to check those boxes every year and to this day, Voss still says he can’t believe the evolution that began that one indecisive afternoon in 2011.

This year’s Kalamazoo Hot Dog Walk will take place on Friday. For more information, go to hotdogwalk.com.

For the full conversation with Chris Voss watch the video in the player above.