ByKrystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The streets and sidewalks in Rocky Boy's Agency will be flooded with hundreds of students Wednesday morning as Rocky Boy Public Schools and the Head Start program participate in International Walk to School Day.
The event is organized by Rocky Boy's Diabetes Wellness Center.
"Our local campaign is called 'De-feet-ing Diabetes and Heart Disease, One Step at a Time,'" Tracy Burns, a nutritionist at the wellness center, said last week.
Burns said nearly 500 children from the Head Start program and Rocky Boy will be joining millions of students and community members around the world in walking to school. Rocky Boy students walked in the global event last year, but Burns said this is the first year children from Head Start will participate.
"We're really excited to have everyone on board this year," she added. "Our goal is really just to get kids more active. The younger we start them out, the better."
The local walking day program was funded by a $500 mini-grant Rocky Boy received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Montana Cardiovascular Health Program. The money paid for lunch bags the Diabetes Wellness Center filled with nutritional fun cards, a piece of fruit, a container of milk, a bagel or a muffin, and a yogurt.
Burns said all Rocky Boy students will participate in the walking day, including those who ride the bus. The buses will drop students off about a half a mile from the school's campus, so the children will have to walk a short distance to get to their classes. The students' parents and other community members are invited to walk with the children.
"We're really encouraging parents to get out there with their kids and walk too," Burns said. "Parents can be their kids' best role model when it comes to physical activity. We had parents participating last year and we hope to see even more of them this year."
"We're trying to raise kids' awareness that they could walk more often and it's not that hard. We'd like to get to the point where we do this kind of thing weekly or monthly."
Obesity rates among children have more than doubled in the past 20 years, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, and those rates are much higher among minority children. Burns said in Rocky Boy, it's estimated that as many as 50 to 70 percent of children are at risk of getting diabetes in the next five to 10 years. Exercise and physical activity are key to helping prevent diabetes in the younger generation, she added.
Burns said last year's event was well received by the students, and she hopes the enthusiasm for the day continues this year.
"A lot of the kids were running and laughing," she said. "I think most of them really enjoyed it."