Ashley Stewart has organized Gardner Elementary’s Walk to School Day for seven years. File photo

Mark Taylor
Sixty-eight Gardner Elementary students and their parents joined millions of other youngsters around the world Oct. 5 in walking to school.
International Walk to School Day was observed by 3 million people in 36 countries as an effort to promote the health benefits of daily activity and the need for safe places to walk.
Ashley Stewart, Gardner Elementary physical education teacher, challenged her students and their parents to walk to school together that day.
Stewart said she has hosted Walk to School day for seven years because it promotes physical activity while teaching pedestrian safety.
“It is just a way to promote health and fitness and also a safe walking route to school,” she said.
Stewart said parents and siblings of students are also encouraged to participate.
“I send a note home. Kids are supposed to walk with a grownup,” she said. “There are also siblings, pets, strollers, teachers. A lot of our teachers walk.”
Participants met early in the morning at King of King’s Lutheran Church on Madison Street and walked a predetermined route with their friends and siblings.
Some students rode bicycles and scooters.
“Kids love walking opportunties,” Stewart said. “Just extra activities. Nighttime activities include dance class, baseball practice. We do have a lot of opportunities for evening activities at school, but not many morning activities.”
Each participating student received a certificate of completion and a “toe token” as a reward as they entered to school.
“They wear the toe token on their shoelace,” Stewart said. “It’s just such a big deal for them.”
The only requirement for participation was that students had to be accompanied by an adult during the walk.
Several parents walked alongside their children as they made their along the route.
Stewart said annual participation ranges from 40 to 80 students.
Students had been taught ahead of time to look both ways before crossing and to use a cross walk wherever possible.
The Gardner Police Department helped ensure the safety of the event by stationing officers along the route.
“As long as I have a group that is interested in Walk to School Day, I will do it,” Stewart said. “The nice weather sure helps. I don’t think we have ever had a morning with snow or rain.”