Walk to School Day is October 8

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., Oct. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A convergence of issues ranging from childhood obesity to environmental pollution to rising fuel prices are pushing families to rethink how they travel, including the daily trip to school. Although walking and bicycling to school happen throughout the school year, this year's official Walk to School celebration takes place October 8. Here is a slice of Walk to School activities from around the country:

Every Tuesday in October, rain or shine, a group of students at New Searles Elementary School in Nashua, New Hampshire, set off to school on foot. Undaunted by steady New England rains, students, parents and school staff recently kicked off "Trek to School Tuesdays" at New Searles.

"We do Trek to School Tuesdays in October and one week of activities in June as part of Walk New Hampshire," said Debbie Richardson, school nurse at New Searles and veteran organizer of Walk to School events. At the kick off celebration, school buses dropped off students at a meeting location and a rolling bike train led 80 students, plus parents and school staff, to the school.

To the south, families in Madison, Mississippi, are walking, too.

"We have enjoyed the opportunity to walk to school for the last three years," says Kathy Davini, mother of a third-grader at Madison Avenue Elementary. "I feel lucky to be able to share this time with my daughter. Walking to school gives us quality time together while enjoying the fresh air outdoors and appreciating the different seasons – in addition to the benefit of daily exercise for both of us," adds Davini.

While many Walk to School events center on promoting physical activity, safety and environmental stewardship, rising fuel prices are playing a role on school trips, too.

"School boards across the country are faced with the conflict of balancing their fuel budgets — which too often gets translated into reduced school bus service — while facing increased transportation needs of families whose fuel budgets are also being squeezed," observes Derek Graham, President of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.

For some families, this is an opportunity to give walking and bicycling to school a try. Walk to School Day is not a new initiative. The Partnership for a Walkable America sponsored the first National Walk Our Children to School Day in Chicago in 1997, modeled after the United Kingdom's walk to school events. In the U.S., Walk to School grows in numbers and relevance each year. In 2007, all 50 states held Walk to School events, for an estimated total of 5,000 schools. Also last year, events registered at www.walktoschool.org increased by 35 percent compared to 2006.

Whatever the motivation, Walk to School boils down to families and community.

"Walking to school also gives us the chance to stay connected with our friends and neighbors as we visit along the way, keeping us involved in our community," adds Davini.

For more details and to see who's walking this year, visit www.walktoschool.org.

For photos of last year's Walk to School events in the U.S. and abroad, visit www.iwalktoschool.org/photos.

For more information, visit www.walktoschool.org, or call Raquel Rivas at (919)962-5835, rivas@unc.edu

SOURCE UNC Highway Safety Research Center