SAN ANTONIO – More than 100 youth and adults braved the wet and cold to participate in the recent Walk Across Texas health and wellness family event kickoff at the Scheh Center in San Antonio.
The event was coordinated by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Harlandale Independent School District and endorsed by the Mayor’s Fitness Council.
County Commissioner Chico Rodriguez provided opening remarks encouraging youth and families to participate in programs like Walk Across Texas as a way to help increase their physical activity.
The event also featured information stations staffed by representatives of more than 20 agencies and community organizations focused on nutrition, health, wellness, safety and family enhancement.
Participants interacted with H-E-Buddy, McGruff the Crime Dog and other mascots, plus viewed a K-9 police dog training demonstration by the San Antonio Police Department and participated in a Zumba class.
“Walk Across Texas is a statewide health and wellness initiative of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service,” explained Nelda Lebya Speller, director of the agency’s Bexar County office.
She said this year’s program is presented in conjunction with the Harlandale ISD and their Leadership Enrichment Academics Partnership and Afterschool Centers of Education 21st Century Program.
Speller said Walk Across Texas is an eight-week program designed to help young Texans establish the habit of regular physical activity using a fun and motivating team approach. Each team may include youth and adult participants working together toward the goal of walking 832 miles, which is the distance from the northernmost to the southernmost point in Texas.
“We are excited to be working with the Harlandale ISD and to have their support in bringing the program to more than 1,600 students from 18 schools throughout the district,” said Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent, Bexar County. “Texas A&M AgriLife and Harlandale ISD share a common vision to help Texans better their lives by raising awareness and increasing participation of positive health practices and activities through healthy lifestyles.”
Gutierrez said Texas ranks as the ninth most physically inactive state, with about one-third of Texans being obese and more than one-fourth of the state’s adults reporting they get no leisure-time physical activity.
Maria Ayon, who is in charge of family engagement for the Afterschool Centers of Education 21st Century Program, said events like this are an important way to get entire families involved in positive lifestyle changes.
“We want families to learn about nutrition, health and to make this a family fitness activity,” she said. “The ACE and LEAP (Leadership Enrichment Academics Partnership) programs provide after-school classes and a variety of health and wellness and other activities the entire family can benefit from. We’re glad to be working with AgriLife Extension on this Walk Across Texas program because it is something the whole family can do to increase their physical activity.”
Robert Salinas with AVANCE was among those representing the supporting organizations at the event.
“AVANCE has been working with Harlandale ISD for more than 20 years, and we are very involved in their Head Start and Early Head Start programs,” Salinas said. “We know parents are the first teachers and home is the first classroom, so we work with them to provide nutrition education and promote healthful eating behaviors and physical activities, especially among low-income families.”
Another organization representative was Kristen Pudleiner, who serves on the Community Committee of the Mayor’s Fitness Council.
“Events like Walk Across Texas are important community opportunities, and that’s why we have endorsed this event,” Pudleiner said. “A main goal of ours is to help people understand what health and wellness resources are available to them and to coordinate community activities like this. That way, people in San Antonio and Bexar County can know what’s out there for them.”
Gutierrez said as part of the Walk Across Texas program, AgriLife Extension personnel will check on team progress at the halfway point of the program. At the end of the program, there will be a recognition celebration during which medals and participation certificates will be given.
“Walking is one of the easiest and healthiest activities people can participate in,” Gutierrez said. “And getting regular exercise helps cut down on obesity and the risk of chronic illness. We’re glad to have this opportunity to work with the Harlandale ISD to provide the students they serve and their families with some of the educational outreach and activities needed to help them live healthier lives.”
Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Angie Gutierrez, 210-631-0400, email@example.com