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‘Walk to School Day’ emphasizes safety first

By Staff | Oct 3, 2019

Dozens of children and their parents gathered Wednesday at the old Grace Community Center on the corner of Hancock Bridge Parkway and Orange Grove Boulevard to do something many kids do: Walk to school.

These walkers took a more than half-mile walk to Tropic Isles Elementary School as part of International Walk to School Day, an event in which several schools throughout Lee County took part.

The purpose of the walk, which has been held for 20 years, was twofold. It was about the health benefits of walking to school, provided you live close enough to one, and the importance of safety while walking, something that harshly hit home this past year following two child fatalities at or near school bus stops.

“We want to teach the kids how to walk safely and obey pedestrian laws. It’s important no matter where you are and the time of the year,” said Brian Raymondo of the Metropolitan Planning Organization. “We also want kids to get up and moving more, put down the cell phone and exercise.”

The walks was a safe one, thanks to the help of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and EMS and the North Fort Myers Fire Department, which also took part.

Ryan Lewis, physical education teacher at Tropic Isles, said he wanted to show the benefits of using foot power over gasoline.

“If they’re close enough to walk, they should so they can utilize their legs, get some fitness and put less pollution in the air,” Lewis said. “There’s a safety aspect in that we stop and look both ways. We have that lesson all the time.”

Tropic Isles Principal Robert Mazzoli said the walk was a great way to get the parents and community involved in helping the kids get to school safely.

“It’s a great community event. I want the kids to learn we’re a great community, not only in this area, but also a school community,” Mazzoli said. “We have our teachers and It’s great to see this kind of turnout.”

Kaleigh Allen, a parent, said she did it because her two children, Alex and Jackson, wanted to take part.

“They like to hang out with the coaches, so they wanted to do the walk with them,” Allen said. “They are into baseball, so they need the exercise.”

For some of the children, the walk to school was no big deal, since they do it every day.

For Anna Heyden, 7, of North Fort Myers, it was the first time. For Wesley Wood, 5, of Cape Coral, it was more of a challenge

“It was cool because I had never walked to school before,” Anna said. “It was easy and I felt safe.”

“I’m a car rider, so it really felt like a workout. I’m so tired I feeling like sleeping now,” Wesley said.