Walking is a great way to get exercise and have fun as well as a great way to get from one place to another, an organizer of a National Walk to School Day event says, but it needs to be done safely.
Wapakoneta City School District administrators and city of Wapakoneta administrators along with members of the community organized a local event for next week to coincide with Monday’s National Walk to School Day.
“National Walk to School Day is a day to promote kids getting out and exercising, having fun and learning the safety rules when walking,” Wapakoneta Elementary School Principal Mark Selvaggio said. “I know not every child can walk to school so we are going to celebrate by walking a few laps in a school parking lot, go into the auditorium and listen to Police Chief Russ Hunlock talk about how to be safe when they are out walking in their neighborhood. We also have a person coming to discuss how walking is healthy exercise.”
During a meeting Tuesday, organizers learned that Ronald McDonald, Safety Pup and the Wapakoneta Redskins varsity cheerleaders are going to lead the students on their walk, with the cheerleaders leading them on a couple of cheers during the walk.
Local insurance agent and Wapakoneta City Council Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. is set to serve as master of ceremonies, with Mayor Rodney Metz presenting a proclamation in honor of the day.
Hunlock plans to discuss safety while walking including crossing at crosswalks, the need to look both ways when crossing the street and other safety tips.
Matt Dwenger, a health professional, intends to talk to the students about the health benefits of walking and daily exercise or activity.
Ronald McDonald is scheduled to show children items in a goody bag, filled with items from area businesses including water provided by Culligan or Wal-Mart, apple dippers from McDonalds, a day pass from the Wapakoneta Family YMCA and balloons from Grand Lake Health Systems. Other goodies and information pamphlets also will be included.
“I think it is important to have a day like this because kids are all over walking from one place to the other and we hope they remember the safety rules when they are out so, for example, they don’t dart across the street if somebody dares them because they know that is not safe,” Selvaggio said. “They know to stay healthy and when they get older and they want to stay in shape they will remember to get out and exercise.”
The United States has been celebrating Walk to School Day since 1997. The event reached a record high in 2010 with more than 3,500 events registered, with events in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
The event became the International Walk to School Day in 2000 when Canada and the United Kingdom celebrated the event with the United States.
In August 2005, federal legislation signed by President George Bush established National Safe Routes to School program that provided $612 million toward Safe Routes to Schools from 2005 through 2010.
Finkelmeier said city administrators and officials became involved because the city was contacted since it received grant funding through Safe Routes to Schools to install sidewalks, crosswalks and enhanced crosswalks as well as crossing guards and other enforcement needed measures.”
The city of Wapakoneta was awarded $435,000 in Safe Routes to Schools grant money this year to install sidewalks and make other improvements.
“Anything that promotes the health, safety and welfare of our citizens, especially our children, is something I believe the city should be involved in, and I am happy, individually, to be involved in something that promotes the health and safety of the children,” Finkelmeier said. “I hope children who attend the day will gain some awareness about safe walking, have fun, will think about getting out to play for one hour a day — to teach children to get outside and play a little more, to run a little more and to be a little healthier.”