North Aiken students weather the storm for Walk to School Day

October 11, 2018 GMT

Even a hurricane couldn’t stop North Aiken Elementary students from participating in International Walk to School Day.

Waves of showers – and occasionally downpours – moved across Aiken early Wednesday morning in advance of Hurricane Michael and prevented the students from making their traditional march along Aldrich Street through Crosland Park.

But about 50 kids, teachers, parents and grandparents gathered with teachers and staff in front of the school before classes began to promote pedestrian safety. The event also encourages physical activity and helps reduce traffic and pollution around the school.

At North Aiken Elementary, Walk to School Day is an annual tradition. Students have not missed a year since the event began in 1997, said Bonnie Fulghum, who helped organize the walk.

“We’re sorry that Michael tried to get in our way, but even Michael could not stop us from walking today,” she said.

Fall is a good time to remind students who walk to school to be safe. It’s still dark when elementary school students leave for school, and another event that will have children walking in the dark is coming up, Fulghum said.

“Of course, it’s Halloween, so we do it in October to remind everybody to be safe for Halloween, too,” she said.

Aiken City Council member Gail Diggs called Walk to School Day a “great program.”

“I’m invigorated when I come out at 6:45 in the morning and see these kids with all of this energy and enthusiasm and ready to walk to school,” she said. “We encourage kids to walk to school, but we also want them to know that we are doing everything we can to make it safe for them to walk to school. Providing sidewalks, good lighting and clear paths on school routes helps ensure safe walks to school.”

For Leon Hart, a volunteer grandparent at North Aiken, Walk to School Day is not only a tradition; it’s a family tradition.

He started walking his granddaughter, who is now 19, when she was in 5K. Then he walked with his grandson and finally another granddaughter, who finished fifth grade last year.

“I enjoy being with the kids,” said Hart, who has participated 16 years. “I started toting them on my back. Then, they started walking, and then, they started walking me.”

Anthony Holloway’s family members are multigenerational walkers.

Holloway walked with his son, Jalen Holloway, who is 18 now and graduated last year, for five years and then with his twin sons, Cam’ron and Trev’ron Washington, for five years.

Wednesday morning, Holloway came with his granddaughter, Azariya Washington-Dobbs.

“I love kids. I think it’s a great opportunity for the kids who don’t walk to school and their parents to see what the kids who do walk to school do every morning,” said Holloway, who attended North Aiken Elementary and proudly supports the school and its mascot, the Bear.

“It’s good for the community, and it’s great that they’ve made an entrance for walkers to the school from Crosland Park because a lot of the kids live there. I’ll always be a Bear.”