A rainy day that made getting to school while exposed to the elements less than ideal couldn’t stop nearly 700 students in Brockport Central School District from doing just that.
Brockport held its 13th annual Walk to School Day on Oct. 3, and students came out in droves to participate in and support the effort. Wet early autumn weather could have put a damper on this year’s turnout, but a whopping 683 students stepped, pedaled or rode their way to school.
“The fact that we had such great participation this year, despite the less-than-desirable day weather-wise, shows the dedication that people have to the event,” says Kerry Sharp, communication specialist at Brockport.
Walk to School Day is an annual event that promotes physical fitness by encouraging students to walk, bike or ride a scooter to school with family members and fellow classmates. Though it started internationally in 1997, local pediatrician and Brockport School Medical Director Jim Goetz and the Walk! Bike! Brockport! Committee brought the project to town in 2006.
In its 13 years in Brockport, the event has at least doubled in size, with 2017 setting the record at 777 students participating.
Sharp credits each student’s family to helping make the event a success. A lot of parents and grandparents take time out of their days — even taking the day off from work — for the sake of walking with their kids to school. Of course, Walk to School Day goes several levels deeper – it’s an event that has been ingrained in the community, enticing participation from every corner of the are the district serves.
And aside from the effort to get to school without using an automobile or bus, the event brings together the greater Brockport community.
Donations are gathered from organizations all over Brockport to support the event. Tim Hortons has donated coffee — for adults participants — which is distributed by members of the Brockport Kiwanis Club. Six bushels of apples, or about 240 pounds, were gathered. PTSA members helped out at the designated water/selfie stations, where students could grab an apple, rehydrate and take some pictures with their family and friends. There were also small trinkets for the kids to collect this year, which included bracelets, finger puppets and rubber animals.
There’s never a dull moment during the day’s walk, as athletes from the College of Brockport’s men’s baseball team and women’s basketball team walked side-by side with students, encouraging them and chatting about physical wellness. Brockport High School band Element-36 also took part, providing energetic music for the kids to enjoy on their walk. As students made their way into school, they were met by members of the high school’s Key Club and Flex Club, who further encouraged, cheered and high-fived them as they arrived.
All of these variables make for a very exciting atmosphere, and that exactly what event organizer Jim Goetz is going for.
“I have two requirements for the day: Number one, that it be fun, and number two, that it be low to no stress,” Goetz said.
Measures are also taken to ensure every student stay safe on their way to school. Brockport police maintained a presence along the entire path, while volunteers coordinated at each intersection take make sure students could cross streets safely. Walk to School Day is supposed to be a fun day for every student, so having a tight safety blanket ensures that no one has to worry.
Since 2014, the Walk! Bike! Brockport! Committee had a trophy crafted by community artists, which each year is given to the elementary school with the highest percentage of participation. This year’s winner was Barclay Elementary School, with 44 percent of students participating.
Though the elementary schools are in the spotlight for the day, Oliver Middle School has had a great presence the last few years, so a plaque was created for its own competition between the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. For the record, the sixth-graders took home the plaque for this year’s event.
So many students look forward to this event each year, with so much emphasis put on this one day. It is Goetz’s hope that students realize it doesn’t need to be just one day a year. The excitement of this day should promote just how important and exciting it is to maintain healthy lifestyle choices each and every day. With so many kids making the effort to walk on such a dreary day, Brockport students are already moving toward a healthier future.