BY MARY WICOFF
At almost the same time Saturday, hundreds of feet will step out as part of the first Let’s Walk Vermilion County.
People in 10 communities will walk 1 mile or less, starting at 9 a.m. and following designated routes. There is no registration and no fee to participate. The event will take place even if it rains. Walkers of all ages, including families with strollers and wagons, are welcome.
The walks will begin about the same time in Danville, Oakwood, Westville, Ridge Farm, Fairmount, Fithian, Rossville, Sidell, Potomac and Bismarck.
Bob Jennings, president of the Oakwood Village Board, is a walking enthusiast who has some words of wisdom for others: “People who might not have walked for a while might have an ache (afterward) … but it’s a good ache.”
He and others hope that many people join the walk, and that they make walking for good health a priority thereafter.
Saturday’s event is being organized by Presence United Samaritans Medical Center’s HALO Project and the Vermilion County Health Department. Both are part of We Choose Health Vermilion County, a multi-year Illinois Department of Public Health initiative to encourage prevention of obesity and tobacco use.
Participants will receive bottled water, a brochure showing walking routes in 15 communities, and a booklet with fun facts about those towns.
Communities and their starting points for walking paths are:
Tilton, Belgium, Georgetown, Hoopeston and Muncie are not participating Saturday; however, those towns have identified walking routes, which are listed in the booklet.
Jennings, chairman of the County Mayors Council, is excited about Let’s Walk Vermilion County. He and his wife, Nancy, belong to the Ridgewalkers Walking Club in Champaign.
“Anything we can do to help somebody get healthy, we’ll do it,” he said.
He hopes at least 50 people, including students, will walk the route in Oakwood.
He also has set a goal to walk all of the designated routes in the 15 communities mentioned in the booklet. “This is an opportunity for us to become familiar with other towns,” he said.
Kathy Richard, director of the HALO Project, said the Let’s Walk Vermilion County project was developed to help promote and encourage regular physical activity in people’s busy lives.
“Establishing small changes, as simple as walking 30 minutes a day, most days of the week, will improve your health,” she said.
Jenny Trimmell, Vermilion County Health Department Community Health Services director, noted that obesity is a problem in the county.
“Statistics for Vermilion County show that almost one-third of our citizens fit the criteria for obesity,” she said. “We are excited about this project as it is a fun way to encourage people to get up and (get) moving.”
With this being the first walk, she doesn’t know how many walkers to expect across the county. The Westville Girl Scout troop will participate, and Fithian has already lined up about 40 people. In Potomac, the town rummage sales are going on, and that might attract walkers.
Walking is a fun activity that doesn’t require expensive equipment, and you don’t have to drive somewhere, Trimmell said. One of the brochures lists ways to make walking fun for children, such as using a magnifying glass, collecting things along the way or making up stories.
Trimmell said organizers with We Choose Health contacted 22 communities in the county, and 15 said they would identify walking routes. Ten of the 15 said they would participate Saturday.
This is We Choose Health’s first project, and Trimmell said she hopes the walking initiative continues; perhaps there could be a competition next year.
Also, the booklets distributed Saturday will be placed in area communities, perhaps in libraries. Sara Kruse, a University of Illinois graduate student and an intern with the Presence Foundation, has been instrumental in working with communities, Trimmell said.
“I see us continuing to work with them and moving it forward,” she said. “We need to find ways to get people up and moving.”
Funding for We Choose Health comes from the Illinois Department of Public Health, which received a Community Transformation Grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with communities to implement proactive health programs.
The Presence Foundation was awarded a $44,000 grant from IDPH to oversee the We Choose Health Vermilion County projects.
Let’s Walk Vermilion County is the first of several local initiatives. Joining Presence United Samaritans and the Vermilion County Health Department in this project are the University of Illinois College of Nursing, Vermilion Advantage, and area communities.
HALO Project is an outreach program of the Presence United Samaritans Medical Center’s Foundation.
For information about We Choose Health or Let’s Walk Vermilion County, e-mail Kathy Richard at Kathryn.email@example.com or call 442-6587, or e-mail Jenny Trimmell at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 431-2662, ext. 229.
Learn more at http://www.presencehealth.org/halo or www.vchd.org.