Update: Due to weather, the date has been moved to Thursday, October 11.
Nationwide, schools are encouraging their students to take an active approach to their day with Walk and Bike to School Month, officially designated for the month of October.
Noon Rotary first brought Walk to School Day to Marshfield 20 years ago. Officially October 10, the event promotes physical activity, combating pollution, and pedestrian safety.
For the past ten years, 2nd grade teacher Donna Smith of Grant has organized a school parade that begins in the mall parking lot so that kids, the majority of whom take the bus to school, could participate. It has grown from just 2nd graders to attract 4-500 Grant students, their parents and siblings, high school football players who give out stickers, and members of the police and fire departments with their vehicles.
“It really does always blow my mind to see how many people show up,” said Smith. “It’s great feeling to have that connection with so many people…The parents really appreciate it. I think they enjoy walking with them too, and taking part.”
The City of Marshfield officially declared October 10 this year to be International Walk to School Day via a Mayor Proclamation last month. With help from sponsors, it is hosting a contest for grades K-6 to win gift certificates toward fourteen new bikes for participating schools Grant, Lincoln, Madison, Nasonville, Washington, Immanuel Lutheran, and Columbus Catholic.
The day acts as the kickoff to Walk to School Wednesdays, which Smith organized a few years ago to promote healthy lifestyles, camaraderie with the kids, and a sense of ownership with the building. Around 30 kids regularly participate each week by getting dropped off at the Target parking lot at 7 a.m. as long as they see the flag, which means an adult is there to guide them.
“It’s a way to to get kids that get rides to school every day or take the bus every day a chance to participate,” said Smith. Passionate about the program, Smith usually sticks it out until January before putting the walks on pause until the weather warms.
A few times a year, kids might receive hot chocolate sponsored by a local business or get visited by a fire truck. Sometimes there will be a fun activity, like making smoothies once they reach the school.
While this is Smith’s last year of organizing the events before retirement, it’s not the end of her dedication. “I’m sure I’ll come back and join my team, and walk with them next year. There’s no doubt my mind,” she said. “They can’t get rid of me that easy!”