This summer, Montgomery County leaders completed the last of six walking trails, all based at elementary schools. Pictured are from left to right: Roxanne Elliott, policy director, FirstHealth Community Health Services; Teresa Dunn, principal, Page Street Elementary; Dr. Dale Ellis, superintendent of Montgomery County Schools; and Cindy Laton, health educator, FirstHealth Community Health Services.
TROY – A kind of relay race at Montgomery County elementary schools ended the 2017-2018 school year, but not with just a single runner tearing through the finish line tape. The unique three-year “race” involved six walking trails across the county, and ended with a big yellow bow on the campus of Page Elementary School. And the winners: every elementary school student in the county – and their families, too.
“We started building walking trails on school campuses in 2015, and now all six elementary schools are able to participate in The Daily Mile™ walking program,” says Roxanne Elliott, policy director for FirstHealth Community Health Services. “It took a lot of organizations, a lot of community support and a lot of energy to make it happen.”
Organizers celebrated with a ribbon cutting over the summer.
The Daily Mile is an international program that was created to help kids in the classroom. By giving them a place to run, walk or jog during the school day – for just 15 minutes a day – they can better focus in school and improve their overall health.
“We’ve been working with FirstHealth for some time on other health-related efforts, but this was the first related to physical health,” says Dr. Dale Ellis, superintendent of Montgomery County Schools. “We’re always trying to fight for resources for our children, so to have this partnership with and leadership of FirstHealth is important to us. And it shows everyone’s commitment to our students here.”
FirstHealth’s involvement in The Daily Mile program in Montgomery County began in 2015 and includes completing trails that are .20 to .25 miles long. Significant funding came from local non-profits and donations.
“This program would not be possible without the collaboration of so many partners,” says Elliott.
Initial funding for The Daily Mile project came in the form of a $450,000 grant from The Duke Endowment, through its “Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas” grants. Grant recipients were FirstHealth’s “First-In-Health 2020 Task Forces” in Montgomery and Richmond counties. Contributions also came from community members who supported events held by FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation.
“With all this support, it is exciting to see the principals, the students and the teachers embrace it,” Elliot says.
“Kids take pride in these trails,” Dr. Ellis says. “And members of each community have been coming out and using the trails, too. It makes for a healthier community overall.”
He also says he’s gotten calls from school across the nation, wanting to learn more.
School administrator Teresa Dunn has had a unique perspective of the program. She was principal of the first school in the United States to introduce The Daily Mile at Montgomery County’s Star Elementary. She is now principal of Page Street Elementary, the last of the six to have a completed track.
“The Daily Mile has been instrumental in teaching elementary students that everyone can improve their fitness level by simply working in 15 minutes of physical activity each day,” she says.
Now that school is back in session, hundreds of school children at all area elementary schools here will get the benefits of walking their “daily miles.”
For more information about this project or how you can support this community effort, call Roxanne Elliott with FirstHealth Community Health Services at (910) 715-3487.
Want to try a Daily Mile track out for yourself? Join the Mayors of Troy, Star, Biscoe, Candor and Mt. Gilead for a Mayor’s Walk during the N.C. Outdoor Festival. An event for all ages, the Mayor’s Walk is a one-mile walk held at four of Montgomery County’s Daily Mile Trails. Be sure to complete all four walks for a chance to win a prize. Mayor’s Walk passports will be provided by FirstHealth at the first walk in Troy and stamped at each location to track your progress. For more information, including dates, visit www.NCOutdoorFestival.com/Mayors-walk.