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Walnut students get healthy one step at a time
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Hundreds of Walnut Elementary students and their families participate in International Walk to School Day on Wednesday. - photo by NANCY ANGEL / The Journal

Over 500 Walnut Elementary Magneteers and their families opted to walk instead of ride to school on Wednesday in recognition of International Walk to School Day, part of an effort to promote youth exercise.  Public safety personnel escorted students and their families from Cornerstone Church on the corner of Christoffersen Parkway and Crowell Road to the Walnut campus.

The event was organized to raise awareness about the health benefits of walking to school and the potential negative health effects of sedentary lifestyles. In the United States, nearly one in three children is either overweight or obese.

“Walk to School Day is symbolic for health, environment, and one’s well-being,” said Walnut Elementary Principal Mark Holmes.

When students arrived to school, they were greeted with stickers, refreshments, and the school’s mascot “Wally.”  A special assembly was held with live entertainment from the RAD Kids Interactive at Walnut and health tips about the benefits of walking to school.

“We have been preparing for weeks to have this event run smoothly,” said PTA chairman for health and safety and board certified pediatrician Sunita Saini.  “We wanted to make this event exciting for the students so we handed out raffle tickets to the students to have the chance to win gift cards to Subway and Kid Time Fitness.”

The PTA is holding a challenge throughout the month of October, encouraging children to continue to walk or bike to school.

 “As a pediatrician and a mother we are a part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign in putting our children on a path to a healthy future,” said Saini. “We are also going to send her a video package of the school’s event to show that Walnut Elementary is making leaps and bounds to promote our children with a healthy lifestyle. Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled.  Giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices can make a difference in a child’s life.”

Ursula Sylvan, grandmother of second grade student Madelyn Ford, walked with her granddaughter for the first time at Walk to School Day.

“I was very happy to be a part of this event,” said Sylvan.  “Walk to School Day at Walnut helps us as parents and grandparents to be healthy with our kids.”

Organizers hope to encourage more organized marches to school next year.

“Next year we will fundraise and campaign more,” said Saini.  “We hope that other schools in the Turlock district follow in our footsteps and participate in this national event to promote the benefits of exercise and being healthy.”