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Commentary: Could you walk across America?

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Tamara Ward

June 6, 2006

A UMNS Commentary
By Tamara Ward*

Have you ever had a long talk with yourself and said, “Self, this is the day, week, month that I’m going to start exercising and get in better shape?”

I cannot begin to tell you how many “talks” I’ve had with myself, but I’ve always had an excuse for not starting. I’ll wake up on Monday morning with great intentions of getting on that treadmill just as soon as I get home from work ... and I repeat that Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. But I’m not giving up yet. I’ve done it before, and I know I can do it again.

St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Delmar, Del., has started a program that just may be the incentive I need this time around. You see, it is participating in a Walk across America.

A walk where? That’s right, America. I know you are probably saying, “How can that be?” or, “Guess that’s great if you don’t have a full-time job.” But what St. Stephen’s has created is a “virtual” walk across America.

The concept was born in the home of Wayne and Peggy Moore, who are spearheading the project. One day, sitting in their kitchen, they were chatting away and remarked that they “needed something to do.” From that conversation and with the support of their pastor, the Rev. Marsha Carpenter, the virtual walk project was launched.

Wayne then set to work on the Internet and mapped out the “route” each person would follow. The course, in general, follows Route 50 from Ocean City, Md., to Sacramento, Calif., and the Pacific Ocean.

Seventy-five people are participating in the walk. Each wears a pedometer all day, and they record their walking distance in a walking journal. Once a week, the walkers call in their total steps to one of the volunteers working with the program. The steps are then calculated and by the end of the following week each person is given a report on where he or she is “virtually” on the walk.

Involving other churches

To make the project more interesting, the Moores have contacted 54 churches so far on or near Route 50. They have explained what they are doing, and 13 churches have sent them photos of their church as well as other information regarding their ministries and programs. Churches in Easton and Annapolis, Md.; Romney, W.Va.; Hillsboro, Ohio; Seymour, Ind.; Salem, Ill.; Linn, Lone Jack and Kansas City, Mo.; Williamsburg, Stafford, Cimarron and Syracuse, Kan.; and Canon City, Colo., are among those that have helped St. Stephen’s with the virtual walk.

For visual effect, Wayne took photographs of the walkers at the beginning of the project and, through an inexpensive computer program, placed each person in a photo of the Boardwalk in Ocean City (their starting point). Throughout the project, walkers will have their photos superimposed on a photo from the area they have “walked” to.

Sometimes that will be a picture of a church that provided information, a historical landmark or some nationally site known such as the Bay Bridge and Naval Academy, for which photos are available online. Volunteers will contact walkers who are very close to “arriving” at a certain point to give them an incentive to try and reach it before the end of the week.

Healthy and fun

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Image courtesy of St. Stephen's United Methodist Church

In this digitally edited photo, walkers begin their "virtual" journey from Ocean City, Md., to California.
The project’s primary purpose is to provide some incentive and fun to promote participation in a church-sponsored walking program, and to promote health-enhancing habits and activities for the congregation and anyone else who chooses to participate.

St. Stephen’s walkers include church members, friends and relatives. Each Sunday during the service, a “Walker’s Minute” is given by a member of the congregation, and a newsletter is provided with helpful information for the journey. The walkers meet once a month and have a group walk for those participating.

The walkers hope to celebrate their accomplishments in February 2007 (one year after they began), with a walker’s equivalent of a sports banquet. Their goal by next year is 36,000 total miles, which equals 4,000 miles per month.

What a group effort this project is. Even though the walkers can have personal goals, the church goal affords the opportunity for all participants to “step up” to the challenge.

*Ward is director of communications for the Peninsula-Delaware Annual (regional) Conference.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

 
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Resources
Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference
Book of Resolutions: Health and Wholeness