BOUNTIFUL—Students at Muir Elementary in Bountiful had a special visitor Tuesday when the Utah Jazz Bear joined them to promote safe walking and biking to school.
Parent Andrea Farr and her walking school bus group won the grand prize in the Utah Department of Transportation’s Spring Walk and Win contest using the Walking School Bus app. They ate breakfast with the Jazz Bear then walked to school together, where the school received a check for $500.
“One day I was driving in the car and heard on the radio about this contest for walking your kids to school,” said Farr. “I thought, why not enter and see what we can do? So I downloaded the app to my phone. You record the time every day. It gave me the motivation to walk more. It’s a great program for parents to encourage their children to walk to school.”
Farr said she urged her neighbors to join in too. “That’s what I love about walking,” she said. “You go with your neighbors and see each other every day. For those parents that aren’t able to walk their kids to school I can watch out for them.”
After they drop the children off, Farr said a group of her friends all meet up and walk together without the kids. “It’s a good way for me to get exercise and enjoy those friendships.”
Abby Shaha, spokesperson for UDOT said they are committed to safe walking and biking. “It benefits the community and kids,” she said. “We want to facilitate ways for students to walk to school.”
The Walking School Bus app is similar to organizing a carpool she said, but with walking. “When you download the app you can see other walking groups that you can join or create your own,” said Shaha. “It shows the days, times they’re walking and it allows you to choose a leader. The group of students are accompanied by an adult so it’s safer. When the walk is complete the leader can alert the other parents that their student got safely to school.”
Muir Principal Marilyn Merkley is excited that Farr has been so dedicated. “I think it’s great,” she said. “I see her all the time walking with the kids. She deserves a pat on the back.”
Shaha said Farr’s group was selected from nearly 350 entries across the state. “You get an entry for each day no matter how far you walk,” she said. “We wanted it to be accessible to everyone who wanted to participate and be safe as they walked and biked to school.”
For Farr it’s become a daily routine. “It teaches kids to be healthy, safe and to care about the environment,” she said. “It means less cars at the school, especially in the winter, it’s like an ice skating rink up there. We enjoy walking even in the snow. To get snow gear on and walk from my home to the school takes less time than driving them there.”
In addition to her third and second graders, Farr pushes her 3-year-old back and forth to the school each day. “I broke two strollers last year,” she laughed. “Some families moved in and I invited them to join us too. On our walk there are a few intersections without crossing guards. By walking I get to watch the kids and become familiar with who is around them.”
She said the kids were super excited when they won. “It’s been a fun experience for the whole school,” she said. “I care about the health, environment and safety of the kids. I’m glad we participated. I want to be those eyes to watch out for not only my kids but others.”