Walk to School Day Magic Reaches the Next Generation, Helps Spur Bigger Movement
Guest blogger Lauren Marchetti is Director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School.
This year marks the 17th U.S. Walk to School Day. 17 years! Wow. It occurs to me that some of the kids who took part in that first Walk to School Day event in Chicago in 1997 are now in their late-20s. They may be moms and dads themselves, maybe even planning a Walk to School Day event for their own young children on October 9th. Wow again.
That first Walk to School Day was magical, and when I think of it I’m still amazed. Not because that event was so spectacular—it was just one school in one city, though Mayor Richard Daley did lead it. No, that first Walk to School Day was magical because it tapped into such a deep reservoir of desire for the simple act of kids walking to school. Almost immediately I started hearing from people around the country saying, essentially, “I didn’t know anybody else cared about this.”
Now, 17 years later, Walk to School Day is celebrated around the world as International Walk to School month, Walk to School Day has grown to more than 4,000 events in every state and DC, and more than 14,500 schools are participating in the federal Safe Routes to School program. People do care. A lot. And the magic continues. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from schools where a single Walk to School Day event has led to a year-round walking program.
So if you’re one of those kids who participated in the first Walk to School Day in Chicago in 1997, or if you’re tapping into your own deep desire for this remarkable, simple act of walking to school with your children, please join us in celebrating Walk to School Day this year. Organize an event, register it to be included in the official count and use the many resources available at www.walkbiketoschool.org. But watch out—you may just get caught up in this amazing movement.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School is the information clearinghouse for the federal Safe Routes to School program. Before there was a Safe Routes to School program, Lauren and other members of the Partnership for a Walkable America modeled the first Walk to School Day after walk to school events in the United Kingdom.
Since its inception in 2006, the National Center for Safe Routes to School has led Walk to School Day efforts in the U.S., coordinating official event registration and providing resources for event organizers through the Walk and Bike to School Day website. The National Center is glad to count US DOT, the National PTA, Safe Kids and the SRTS National Partnership among its partners in promoting the event.