Hudson -- Although the rain stopped Wednesday morning, volunteers weren't expecting many walkers and bikers to school because of the below 50-degree cold weather.
Students surprised them Oct. 22 with 528 participants in the Walk/Bike to School event sponsored by Safe Routes Hudson, to encourage students to walk to school or a ride a bike. Last year's fall walk had 393 participants on a slightly rainy day, making for a 34 percent increase in attendance.
Participants received a neon orange T-shirt, a Hudson reflective sticker and a chance to enter a raffle for a neon yellow Safe Routes Hudson drawstring bag or bike bell.
Safe Routes Hudson Project Coordinator Brenda Divine said this was the fifth Walk/Bike to School event since Safe Routes Hudson was formed in 2011.
Divine credits the increase in participation to Hudson City Schools physical education teachers, who taught a bike/pedestrian safety unit in May and promoted the event.
"Each one of them came out in their SRH T-shirts and greeted participants," Divine said. "Very cool to see!"
Kelly Kempf, director of Pupil Services, Hudson City Schools and Safe Routes Hudson executive committee member, said the event's target date was the national walk/bike to school day on Oct. 8 but conflicts moved it to Oct. 22. Walker/bikers were reminded to wear reflective clothing/gear for their safety.
"Although it's great to have increased participation each time, our priority was the safety of the students," Kempf said. "Next year, we will be mindful of the date in relation to daylight savings time and warmer [temperatures]. It's great that so many students and families opted for a healthy more active alternative to get to school today, even though the weather was cold and damp."
Safe Routes Hudson and the Hudson City Schools (K-8) try to stick closely to the national walk to school day and bike to school day which are every October and May respectively, Divine said. The next Safe Routes Hudson event is Bike/Walk to School Day in May 2015.
Safe Routes Hudson in 2012 received $210,000 in grants through the Ohio Department of Transportation for infrastructure improvements like flashing beacons, new bike racks, sidewalks and $97,000 for education to encourage walking and biking to school. In 2013 Safe Routes Hudson received $50,000 for a multi-purpose pathway/sidewalk and $20,000 in 2014 for non-infrastructure needs. As funding decreases, Safe Routes Hudson is looking at other sources to maintain the program.
Safe Routes Hudson is working right now to line up more event sponsors and sustainability partners for our May 2015 event and beyond, Divine said.
Divine thanked all SRH volunteers, schools, Hudson Police Department and crossing guards for their help and support.
Safe Routes Hudson volunteers included Dave Zuro, Emma Jones, Laura Church, Laura Jones, Becky Hinkle, Jenny Graham, Sue Swain, Rachel Franz, Alissa Choi, Kris Stoehr, Carrie Meikle, Regina Tobin, Eric Hutchinson, Nolan Kelemen, Marie Valentik, Dee Strickland, Julie Silcox, Alex Kelemen and many student volunteers.
"A special thanks to all Hudson School (K-8) PE teachers, support staff, principals, Hudson Police Department and crossing guards for their time and effort during our event," Divine added. "We couldn't have done it without all of you. Thank you!"