Growing Season

Beth RichardsWe started growing seeds for our garden over the weekend and as I sat down to write my blog this week I was struck by how working to grow awareness and engagement for Safe Routes to School is similar to the growth of our seedlings. Small seedlings

When I first began walking my son to school, I was the only person from our neighborhood, located just about a mile from school, walking on any given day.  In fact, many parents where driving their kids to the corner to be picked up by the bus.  Yet within a month, we had as many as eight children walking with us and a new parent volunteer.  We planted one seed and it grew. It has now grown to a city-wide committee for Safe Routes to School and a lead principal championing Safe Routes to School throughout the school district; a pretty good harvest. 

This personal experience and the National Partnership's commitment to engaging more and more parents as Safe Routes to School campaigns planted the seeds for the new Fire Up Your Feet program last year.  Today the Minnesota pilot program is launching a new session with more than 50 schools registered and hundreds of students participating and increasing their rates of walking and bicycling. This pilot has been such a success that it has sprouted interest from around the country, which we expect to grow into a national program for the 2012-2013 school year.

Fertilizing the awareness of Safe Routes to School and the importance of built environments that allow for physical activity will be a major national event addressing the obesity epidemic.  HBO is presenting a documentary series, The Weight of the Nation, on May 14 through May 16. Bringing together the nation’s leading research institutions, The Weight of the Nation, is a presentation of HBO and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and in partnership with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente. We applaud our partners for their support of this important media event that will undoubtedly spur a national conversation and highlight the importance of the Safe Routes to School movement.

Growing our garden is family-affair for us, from the planting to the watering and, of course, the eating, we all pitch in and take part. Family-involvement is a wonderful part of Safe Routes to School too and we wanted to highlight an awesome family effort. Jeanie Ward-Walner, her mother and sister are currently riding their bikes across the country as a part of their own volunteer effort, Ride America for Safe Routes, blossoming awareness for the need for safe routes to school and everywhere. Along the way they have been meeting with Safe Routes to School programs and community leaders and raising funds for our mission. I think they are somewhere in Texas right now and Jeanie's dad will be at the National Bike Summit next week. If they are coming to your community soon, be sure to connect and say thank you!

For more information about any of these plants in our garden of awareness – okay, I may finally have taken this garden thing too far – feel free to send me an email at beth@saferoutespartnership.org.