Walk Across Texas event in Bexar County kicks off

Participants in Walk Across Texas in Bexar County gather outside the Bexar County Courthouse to begin the eight-week wellness activity. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

The Walkabouts. The Sole Survivors. The Red Hot Chili Steppers. The Holy Walk-amoles. Cirque de Sore Legs.

These are some of the names of the 26 teams established by about 100 Bexar County employees who recently took their first steps in the second annual Walk Across Texas event in downtown San Antonio.

The event, which began in front of the Bexar County Courthouse, is an eight-week activity in which teams commit to walking at least a 832 miles — the distance between the two furthermost points in the state.

“Walk Across Texas is a statewide health and wellness initiative of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service,” said Nelda Leyba Speller, director of the agency’s Bexar County office. “And the Walk Across Texas initiative is one of the largest activities our agency conducts in collaboration with the county.”

She said AgriLife Extension collaborates with the county to support and complement their employee health and wellness objectives through worksite wellness programs.

“Wellness programs help reduce medical costs and the loss of productivity associated with absenteeism due to illness,” she noted.

In 2018, more than 47,750 youth and adults representing 155 Texas counties participated in Walk Across Texas statewide. Participants collectively logged more than 4.8 million miles, which when avoidance of lost wages is included, yielded an estimated lifetime economic benefit of $186 million for the participants and their places of employment, according to AgriLife Extension data.

Walk Across Texas teams waiting to cross an intersection in downtown San Antonio. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

During the kickoff, teams gathered in front of the courthouse to listen to a few short presentations and begin their walk. The teams will continue walking at times and locations determined by their team leader until they reach or exceed their goal.

Thomas Guevara, chief of staff for the county manager’s office, was one of the event’s coordinators and speakers.

“This is a great opportunity for county employees to participate in a wellness activity,” he said. “It’s also a great way to build camaraderie and to inspire healthy competition among them.”

He said providing opportunities for better health and wellness is another “employee benefit” offered by the county for its employees.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service employees providing water, snacks and agency information at the Walk Across Texas kickoff. Walk Across Texas is a statewide health and wellness activity of the agency. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

In addition to providing oversight for and participating in Walk Across Texas, AgriLife Extension personnel will provide water, snacks and health and nutrition information to participants, as well as check their progress halfway through the activity.

“Participants walk wherever they feel safe and comfortable,” said Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent, Bexar County. “At the end of the program, we hold a recognition celebration where we distribute medals and participation certificates, plus recognize top-performing teams and individuals.”

She said walking is one of the easiest and healthiest activities people can participate in, and getting regular exercise helps cut down on the risk of stroke, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

A secondary goal of the Walk Across Texas activity is to introduce county employees to the variety of educational programs offered by AgriLife Extension, Speller added.

“We want participants to know we have a diverse number of programs for health and wellness, including general nutrition, living with diabetes, healthy cooking and much more,” she said. “We also want them to know we have other programs related to horticulture, gardening, entomology, farming and ranching, youth development and so on. This event is a great opportunity for us to spread the word.”

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