In June, an Ontario County employee Walking Challenge set a new participation record, with 217 participants in 35 teams, representing 25% of the Ontario County workforce. If you combined the total number of participants of all prior walking challenge efforts since 2012, it would add up to only 110 people.

So what was the catalyst for such an impressive turnout? Wellness Champions.

“The biggest difference from prior years was the Wellness Champion kickoff. We had 16 Wellness Champions throughout the county in various departments spreading their motivation and encouraging others to sign up,” says Wellness Champion coordinator Emily Phillips.

Phillips also says a high level of friendly competition kept participants engaged throughout the challenge. Teams of up to six people competed against one other, and teammates tried to outpace each other, also.

“Everyone was involved,” Phillips says. “And with everyone else doing it, people said, ‘Why not? I’ll join.’”

Collectively, participants walked 71,569,659 steps—the equivalent of walking completely around the world, and continuing from Ontario County to Vancouver. On average, each participant walked 345,747 steps. And then there was Tanya Buzalko.

Buzalko clocked in a mind-boggling 1,009,873 steps during the 28-day challenge. She says a competitive personality and strong workout ethic helped her achieve her goal of 30,000 steps per day.

“I didn’t want to let my group down. I’d step it up, literally, if a group member was having a hard time,” Buzalko says. “I was mostly competing against myself.”

Participants could convert their normal exercise schedule into steps, so Buzalko racked up plenty with her cardio and weight training six days per week. She also just walked—on work breaks during the day, and on separate excursions with each of her three dogs every night. Her record was 35,000 steps in one day.

The top three teams were awarded prizes, and each participant was given a pedometer. Best of all, many discovered the health benefits of being active.

“I still see people walking even though the challenge is over,” Phillips says.