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Walking toward healthy youth

Running and walking are not a new sight out on the playground during Pillager Elementary School’s lunch recess. Accomplishing 3,014 miles walked in four months by the elementary students in grades kindergarten through fifth, was.

Set with a goal in mind to “walk across the United States from San Francisco to Washington D.C.” — a distance of 2,810 miles — to raise awareness of healthy habits and exercise, Pillager Elementary set up the Mileage Club, a club where students took time during recess to walk or run a course designed to simulate their “walk across the United States.”

“We (Pillager Elementary School) started walking around a track that we set up around the playground on Jan. 5 after Christmas break,” said Community Education Coordinator Sue Vanhal, who added Mileage Club was also a part of Safe Walk to School Grant. “We had an indoor one on days where recess was held inside, too.

“What we were looking for (in Club Mileage) was a healthy option for kids to learn that walking is healthy and easy.”

Given a thirty minute recess period, students weaved around the course, with six laps equaling one mile. Vanhal said after each lap the students got a rubber band, turning them all in to be totaled at the end of recess.

So how many rubber bands were collected?

18,084 in total over the span of four months from Jan. 5 through April 27 and surpassing their goal by 1,224 laps, bringing even more excitement to the event.

“I thought Mileage Club was going to be boring because all you do is run or walk,” said Norah Kilchesky, a third grader in Ms. Longanecker’s class — whose class totaled the most laps walked throughout the entire school and earning them the Traveling Trophy — who completed 32 laps during her recess time the past four months. “But once you get together with your friends because they’re doing it too, it’s actually pretty fun.

“It’s healthy and a time to be with friends.”

Celebrating with an ice cream party last Friday, Vanhal said Mileage Club was a bigger success than expected.

“This is the first time we have done any type of exercise initiative like this during recess,” Vanhal said, noting that the original goal was met last Tuesday, April 24 when Jacob Abear crossed the line with the goal tallying lap. “And I think it was something that everyone enjoyed doing. We are looking at doing it again next year.”

JESSI PIERCE may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).