The Roosevelt Elementary Sidewalk Stompers is a volunteer organization founded in early 2016 by a group of parents committed to encouraging children to walk to school and providing them safe pedestrian pathways to walk on. The goal is to build a larger community commitment to pedestrian traffic and safety, says Emily Hinsdale, the Stompers’ Co-Founder.
The Stompers launched their “Walk to School Wednesday” program in the Spring of 2016. “Students walking or biking to school on these days enter a raffle for prizes donated by area businesses and the school PTA,” says Hinsdale. Parents who walk their children to school are welcomed with donated coffee as well, providing perks for all involved parties.
Since the program’s inception, student participation has more than doubled; the first Wednesday of the 2017-18 school year saw almost a third of the student body arriving on foot. “Children are learning the benefits of walking to school,” says Hinsdale. “They’re learning the safety benefits of being part of a group and of reduced motor vehicle traffic, the health benefits of making physical activity a habit that prepares students for active learning, the social benefits of connecting with parents, friends, and neighbors through shared activity, and the environmental benefits of reducing traffic to improve air quality around their school.”
High participation rates in Walk to School Wednesdays have also allowed the Sidewalk Stompers to advocate for better safety infrastructure with traffic engineering officials. The Roosevelt Elementary school zone and primary walking routes now have new and updated crosswalks and safety signage. “Sidewalk Stompers is the kind of grassroots group needed to fill the gap between macro-level planning and neighborhood-specific needs, focusing on the under-served, underage students of our community,” says Hinsdale. “For me, walking to school has always been a special time to share with my daughters, to talk about their school day and their interests, to start their days off with bodies and minds fueled by good exercise, and to meet older and younger children and their families that we might not otherwise engage with. It has been exciting to see this project grow to include more of our “school family” and to see the city and county officials who tend our roads respond to the children’s enthusiasm.”