An estimated 1,100 students from four of Valley City’s hometown school campuses celebrated International Walk To School Day on Wednesday morning.
Students from Washington, Jefferson and St. Catherine’s Elementary Schools, as well as the Valley City Junior/Senior High School students all took part in the event that is aimed to raise awareness of pedestrian needs, especially among children.
A police escort was prepared and a two-hand touch football game broke out as Washington School students met at their staging area at the college softball complex prior to the 8:30 a.m. walk. The morning rains had reduced themselves to a temporary mist when the walkers were given the green light.
Washington principal Wayne Denault said he was pleased with the number of students, parents and others who came out in support of the walk.
“I’d say we have over twice as many students this year as we did last year,” Denault said, on his way to the school, trying to keep one step ahead of hundreds of students. “It’s a good turnout.”
School officials guessed the Jefferson school turnout was probably the highest.
“I would say we had – and this is going to be strictly a guess – three-fourths of our students which is going to be about 260,” Troy Miller, principal at Jefferson Elementary, said, adding that the Valley City Hi-Liner football team walked with the students to help with supervision.
With an epidemic of childhood obesity sweeping across the country, last year Valley City was one of 4,000 communities in the U.S. taking part in International Walk To School Day. The event, celebrated in 40 countries, is promoted to emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion and concern for the environment.
Walk To School Day began in the U.S. in 1997 by the Partnership for a Walkable America. With their own walk-to-school programs in place, Great Britain and Canada joined the U.S. to create International Walk to School Day in 2000.
In Valley City, the event was organized by Barnes County ACHIEVE, a group of 14 local non-profit or governmental organizations that work to promote healthy living and lifestyles in the community. BC ACHIEVE was assisted by Barnes County On The Move, the Valley City Police Department, Dietrich Bus Service, parents, teachers and community leaders.