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Spokane students, parents take commute to the sidewalks

Wed., Oct. 6, 2010, 5:35 p.m.

Crossing guards for Spokane’s Moran Prairie Elementary School were overwhelmed today as children and parents participating in International Walk to School Day stacked up behind them while waiting to cross the street.

Bobbi Peters and her daughter, first-grader Kylie, normally would drive but instead opted to join the walk. “The idea is great, to get out and walk,” Bobbi Peters said. “It’s one way to be healthy.”

The reasons for participating in the 13th annual global celebration varies depending on the community, but many schools do it to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Those who attend the South Hill school had an additional reason to walk today. A new pathway that leads from the Ben Burr trail to a crosswalk in front of the school was created along a stretch of East 57th Avenue by Spokane County engineers.

“This completed a safe walking route for approximately 150 students that currently live in the Moran Prairie Elementary school area,” said Karen Wigen, a spokeswoman for the county’s pedestrian safety task force of the county’s engineer office. Last year, 11 pedestrians were killed when hit by vehicles in Spokane County, and this is just one of the county’s safety-promotion efforts.

Combining awareness of the new pathway with Walk to School Day seemed appropriate, officials said.

Moran Prairie, along with Adams Elementary School in Spokane Valley and Grant Elementary in Spokane, joined more than 3,200 other schools across the nation in acknowledging the day.

Some students were unsure about the celebration – “Isn’t it about Japan when they cut off the roads and started walking?” asked Davis Croson, 11. Others had a pretty good idea: “It’s better for the environment,” said John Girsberger, 12. Christina Foruci, 9, said it’s “being green.”

Croson was right about the idea originating overseas, but it was in Great Britain, according to the website Now the pedestrian and child safety project is celebrated in 40 countries.

“Some walks rally for safer and improved streets, some to promote healthier habits and some to conserve the environment,” the website says. “Whatever the reason, International Walk to School events encourage a more walkable world – one community at a time.”

Another reason to celebrate the walk is to bring attention to child obesity, which has tripled in the past 30 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of obese children ages 6 to 11 increased from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 19.6 percent in 2008, according to the CDC. The number of obese teens ages 12 to 19 increased from 5 percent to 18.1 percent.

The child obesity aspect fits in with first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. “By walking or biking to school, students, parents, teachers, and administrators all across America are getting active,” Obama said in a news release. “It also helps kids get a head start on being active for 60 minutes each day, the goal set by the Presidential Active Lifestyle program.”

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