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‘Walk to School Week’ Stresses Health

Those belonging to Generation Y might remember their elders talking about how they had to walk to school in the snow barefoot back in the day. But children today might find that old tale especially shocking, as only 13 percent of them walk or bike to school compared to the 66 percent who walked 30 years ago.

Many schools, nationally and internationally, are coming together to acknowledge the numerous benefits of walking to school with International Walk to School Week, today through Friday, with Wednesday designated as Walk to School Day. Throughout the week, teachers and parents are encouraged to talk with children about why walking to school is good for their health and the environment.

Hill participants will gather at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday at Lincoln Park and then walk to their respective schools beginning at 8 a.m.

“We continue to be challenged with our walk to school — there are crosswalks with lines missing, places where crosswalks should be, sidewalks in poor condition,” said Leslie Leahy, a parent and Walk to School Day volunteer who stresses that safety is critical whether walking or driving. “It’s about changing your pattern, taking a moment to allow people to cross safely.”

Most parents on Capitol Hill drive their children to school, regardless of how close they might live. Leahy said a lot of carpooling occurs in getting kids to school.

“You use less pollution if you drive 100 miles than you do if you drive two miles,” said Ted Coopwood, director of youth and intergenerational programs in the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of children’s health protection. “The first five minutes of running the car, you emit more pollution than you do throughout the whole day — [parents are] emitting the worst they can at that point in time.”

That might be one reason why Linda Staheli has changed her ways and started to walk with her 5-year-old daughter, Jacqueline Abramowitz, to Watkins Elementary.

“We live two blocks from the school,” Staheli said. “It’s nice just to hold her hand and have a few quiet mornings outside.”

Even if parents live too far to walk their children to school, they are encouraged to park two or three blocks away and walk the rest of the way with their children. One of the biggest problems near schools on Capitol Hill is the congestion of vehicles, which Staheli said is “dangerous.”

Last year, 3,000 schools in the United States participated in Walk to School Day, which worked out to about 3 million walkers, according to the Walk to School Day Web site.

Staheli is organizing Wednesday’s Walk to School Day for schools around Capitol Hill. Participating schools include Watkins, Peabody Elementary, Stuart-Hobson Middle School, Payne Elementary and Tyler Elementary. This is the fourth year for Walk to School Day on the Hill.

“This year we’re reaching out to other schools on Capitol Hill,” Staheli said, as only Watkins participated in the event for the first two years.

The Capitol Hill Community Foundation granted $350 to the event, which mostly will go toward granola bars, bananas and drinks as parents, children and teachers gather Wednesday morning at Lincoln Park before the walk to school. Also, the National SAFE KIDS Campaign donated $75 for the materials for the posters and pictures that children are creating for the walk.

Ward 6 Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose, National Park Service officers and horses, D.C. Board of Education member Tommy Wells, SAFE KIDS coalition volunteers and Federal Express corporate officials will be present, in addition to a performance by the 110-member Hine Junior High School marching band.

For more information on Walk to School Day, visit

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