After a short burst of rain, Columbus Park was beautiful one recent day.
Ducks and geese cavorted on a patch of grass, the water on the ground glinting in the sun while fellow fowl floated by in the looping pond on the park’s northeast corner. On the other side of the pond more than 100 West Side residents shared a healthy lunch and rested their legs in the Columbus Park refectory.
After a 5k walk organized by Building a Healthier Austin “brought the park district into the community,” the walk ended by bringing the community into the park to promote physical fitness and healthy eating.
“Walking is the best way to lose weight and to get … exercise,” said Victoria Prewitt, a Building a Healthier Austin board member who has lost over 20 pounds by implementing a daily walking routine.
Prewitt, who was joined in the Sept. 24th walk by her three daughters, was inspired to get involved with the group because “Austin has the highest rates of … hypertension, diabetes and obesity in the city.”
According to Building a Healthier Chicago, Austin has “disproportionately higher diabetes and stroke mortality rates compared to the rest of Chicago and the nation.”
Prewitt said it was conversations with Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) about addressing these issues that led her to get involved with Building a Healthier Austin.
Graham participated in the walk, too.
Part of the purpose of the event was to encourage younger Austin residents to be physically active, and students from Charles Allen Prosser Career Academy, Ella Flagg Young Elementary and John Hay Community Academy completed the walk.
“We had a lot of young people walk,” said Janice Henry, a community health nurse at Loretto Hospital.
The group was undeterred by the drizzle that marred part of the morning, and organizers said they were encouraged by the turnout.
“Overall, especially for our first time, I think we did a good job,” said Athena Williams, who is also on the board with Prewitt.
As they walked from La Follette Park to Columbus the group passed several curious onlookers who asked if the group was walking in support of any particular cause, to which Prewitt and others happily responded they were walking only to promote physical activity.
“It was a wonderful walk,” said Austin resident Mary Vargas who said she would “definitely” be participating in the next event hosted by Building a Healthier Austin.
Several of Vargas’ fellow walkers echoed her sentiment, saying they were “very glad” to have participated in the walk.
The Chicago Park District acted as a partner with Building a Healthier Austin, providing the refectory for the lunch and space for planned physical fitness demonstrations.
The rain made those demonstrations impossible because of the wet and muddy fields and the event ended earlier than expected, breaking up around 12 p.m. Part of the reason for the early ending was the group’s unexpectedly fast pace.
“The walk was really fast, we were thinking that we weren’t going to get [to the park] until 11:30 a.m., and we got here probably about 10:40,” Prewitt said.
To start your own walking club, contact Athena Williams at 773-887-4046 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.