Four years since its genesis, the Walking Wednesday program at Stevenson Elementary School continues to grow in popularity among students and parents.
Each Wednesday, students are encouraged to walk to school rather than being driven.
"We're a walking community, so it just made sense to try to take advantage of that and get more kids to walk to school," said Sandra Binning, who leads the Stevenson PTO's Walking Wednesday committee.
The program began in fall 2014 with about 50 students participating each Wednesday, Binning said.
"Since then, it's grown every year to where we're having more than 200 students walking to school on Wednesdays this year," she said.
The original concept in 2014 was to create a "walking bus" each Wednesday that students and their parents could "board" as the route continued near their homes on the way to school, Binning said.
"It was difficult to coordinate because people leave at different times, and it just evolved naturally that students and families who live on the same street started walking together," she said.
"We have people on different streets, like Oxley or Mulford Road, who have created their own little walking group," Binning said.
The Walking Wednesday program is being held through October and will take a break once the weather turns colder before resuming in the spring, she said.
Students are provided with laminated cards they can have punched as they arrive on foot at school each Wednesday.
"If they get their card punched eight times, they earn a prize," Binning said.
Aside from the health benefits, other positive results follow when students walk to school, she said.
"There are a lot of parents who are taking the time to walk with their children," Binning said.
"It allows parents to have some quality time with their children, to talk about things or just explore the world around them as they walk to school.
"I think most people find that if they drive their children to school, especially in a small community like Grandview, it's such a short drive that you're not even talking to each other while you're driving," she said. "You're listening to the radio or making a call on your cellphone and the kids might be looking at their own devices."
Beau Hoy walks each Wednesday from his family's West First Avenue home with his daughters Ele, 6, who is in first grade, and Abby, 4, who's enrolled in pre-kindergarten. Their dog, Frankie, joins them, too.
"It's a lot more relaxing than driving them to school," Hoy said. "We have a chance to see our neighbors and look at the Halloween decorations. It's some nice family time."
Brad Tipple walked last Wednesday with his children, Griffin, 6, a kindergarten student, and Grayson, 2.
"We live near the high school, and it's a nice walk to Stevenson," Tipple said. "It's good to stretch your legs to start the day and get some fresh air in your lungs."
The walk to school gives students a chance to blow off some steam before they arrive, Binning said.
"They get that pent-up energy out of their system, and they're ready to learn when they get to school," she said.
Walking to school also helps youngsters learn safety lessons, Binning said.
"Parents can talk to their kids about how to use crosswalks and to follow the crossing guards and not to jaywalk," she said. "They can apply their safe-walking skills wherever they go, whether it's to the pool, the park or their friend's house."
The Oct. 10 Walking Wednesday coincided with two special events.
The second Wednesday of October is set aside for National Walk to School Day, which encourages students nationwide to walk to school.
The K-3 and 4-8 PTOs also held a Moveathon, the culmination of a fundraising effort that ran Sept. 28 to Oct. 10.
"The Moveathon replaced the wrapping-paper sale we used to hold as one of our major fundraisers," Binning said. "We were looking for something that would be a little more fun and dynamic."
Students solicited donations for the PTO, and everyone who turned in at least one donation was eligible to win prizes.
On Oct. 10, each homeroom walked a designated route in the afternoon, Binning said. For Stevenson students, the route involved laps around Pierce Field.
Students at Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School also participated in a cardio workout at Bobcat Field.
A generation of students has proceeded through third grade with the Walking Wednesdays initiative in place, Binning said.
"They are getting used to the idea of walking to school, and I think we'll see that translate to more students choosing to walk to school as they start attending Edison/Larson," she said.