First Lady of Virginia Maureen McDonnell will celebrate International Walk to School Day on Wednesday Oct. 5 with more than 350 children from Crestview Elementary School in Henrico County. Mrs. McDonnell and the children will be joined by Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel,
Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, State Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Remley, and the J.R. Tucker High School marching band on their half-mile walk from Christ United Methodist Church to Crestview Elementary beginning at 7:50 a.m.
Funded by a grant from Richmond-based nonprofit Prevention Connections, the Walk to School Day event aims to promote increased physical activity among schoolchildren. “We hope this event will inspire communities across Virginia to participate in the national Safe Routes to School program,” says Danny Saggese, chairman of Prevention Connections. “The number of children who walk and bike to school has decreased by 73 percent over the last 40 years, and we need to turn that around.”
As of 2009, 13 percent of children ages 5 to 14 walked or bicycled to school, compared to 48 percent of students in 1969, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 2009 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS).
Held in connection with Virginia’s second annual Weight of the State childhood obesity prevention conference, 40 other elementary and middle schools throughout the commonwealth will also be observing International Walk to School Day .
Following the walk to school, Crestview Elementary will hold student activities throughout the day emphasizing good nutrition and physical activity. “As part of our school’s Continuous Improvement Plan, one of our goals for the year is to promote healthy life choices, which in turn improves student academic achievement. In the past, we have found that students who participate in physical activity return to the classroom more focused and ready to learn,” says Crestview Principal Karen Rawlyk.