Good health, a cleaner environment and less traffic are the goals of a new program called Walk to School Wednesday.
The program involves students from Waupaca Learning Center and volunteers from the Waupaca Senior Center, walking to school together.
“It’s a good way to get them exercising and a nice cross generational. And, hopefully, a few less cars here is better for everybody,” said Mary Feldt, who is a physical education teacher at WLC.
The idea to start the program came about after Feldt and Helen Halverson were at last September’s Waupaca Walk for Wellness.
Halverson teaches exercise classes at the senior center, and she and Feldt thought it would be great to start intergenerational activities.
After 400 students walked to school last fall on Walk to School Day, Feldt had more momentum to work on such a program.
Halverson told Feldt her volunteers were ready, but they should wait to start the program until the spring.
On Wednesday, April 3, Walk to School Wednesday began.
It will take place every Wednesday for the remainder of the school year.
Feldt advises parents to listen to WDUX on Wednesday mornings if the weather is poor.
There at two departure times, with volunteers from the senior center supervising the students on each of the walks.
Parents drop off their children at the former Riverside Elementary School at 7:15 a.m. for the 7:20 a.m. departure or at 7:30 a.m. for the 7:35 a.m. departure.
The school is located on Park Avenue, next to Riverside Medical Center.
Feldt thought the old school was a good place to begin the walk and contacted Craig Kantos, RMC’s chief executive officer to talk to him about the idea.
He told her it was fine, and several weeks ago, pamphlets went out to the parents, letting them know about the new program.
With the temperature hovering around 30 degrees on April 3, the weather was hardly spring-like.
The students and volunteers were dressed for a winter day with coats, hats and mittens.
Kindergartner Mallory Hines was one of them.
Her grandmother, Colleen Hobson, dropped her off for the morning walk.
“Ever since she got the note last week, she said she wanted to do it,” Hobson said. “I think it’s a really good idea.”
The walk from Riverside School to WLC is about half a mile, Feldt said.
“They will get here in plenty time for school,” she said. “If a child eats breakfast at school, go with the early time.”
The students who walk to school with the senior citizens receive a punch card to attach to their backpacks and become eligible for weekly raffle prizes.
The East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, which works on developing safe walking and biking routes to school, donated items for the raffles.
“Kids can join any time,” Feldt said.
Middle school students and parents are also invited to participate in Walk to School Wednesday.
Tony Gill walked to school on April 3 with his two sons, 8-year-old Xavier and 6-year-old Korbyn.
“It’s good for you,” Gill said. “I think we’ll be doing it again.”
The volunteers from the senior center enjoyed the first walk with the students.
“One little boy said, ‘Thank you for volunteering,'” Charlotte Murray said.
Flo Young said, “I think it’s wonderful. I have grandchildren in Texas. It’s my opportunity to do something here to help out. I enjoy the walk, but I really enjoy the children.”
Halverson said all the volunteers are in the exercise program at the senior center.
“We just think it’s a wonderful opportunity to get out on a brisk morning,” she said.
They liked being greeted by smiling faces.
“I enjoyed it,” Sylvia Jordan said. “I’ll be back next Wednesday.”