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Stall Brook Students Again Hop on the "Walking School Bus"

Jun 26, 2014 01:36PM ● By Marjorie Turner Hollman

Students shown above walking to school are (l-r) Madison & Tanley Drake.

Years ago most children walked to school, but with the advent of school buses and the increase in traffic, walking to school is no longer the norm. At the same time, obesity is becoming a bigger concern, and most of us live less-active lives. In an effort to counteract this trend, a movement called “The Walking School Bus” has been gaining attention around the country. In step with the “Walking School Bus” concept, the Hockomock YMCA has teamed up with families at Stall Brook School in Bellingham for their own “Walk to School” program.

Now in its fifth year at Stall Brook, the program is becoming more and more popular. St.Brendan’s Catholic Church offers the use of their parking lot as the gathering point for the beginning of the walks. Children who do not live along the designated route meet at St. Brendan’s and are able to join in on the fun.

Joe Gonfrade, one of the founders of the program at Stall Brook, explained that the program features “Walking Wednesdays” for three successive Wednesdays in both the fall and the spring. Gonfrade said, “We got a state grant in the past that provided money to paint cross walks on tertiary roads, so now we have painted crosswalks on road crossings the kids need to use to walk to school.”

On the final walk of the school year, held in late May, a breakfast was supplied to walk participants after they arrived at Stall Brook. Gonfrade recalled, “It started five years ago with about seventy children and parents. But this year I counted one-hundred-thirty people along the route. Youth Services Officer Len Gosselin and Lt. Jim Russell, of the Bellingham Police Department, provided an escort for the entire route, which allowed us to increase the size of the walk. They were a huge help!”

Stall Brook PTO President Amy Youkilis said, “We got a $200 grant from the YMCA, and the PTO picked up the rest of the expenses for the program. Onias Sportswear in Hopedale printed the bright yellow t-shirts that all the walkers wore on our final walk this year. And the Bellingham Food Service catered the breakfast for all the walkers this morning.”

Melissa Russell, who walked with her children James, Erik, and Nicholas (and whose husband, Jim, provided police escort) said, “We’ve been walking since the start of the program. They do a great job, and then there’s the breakfast. The kids wearing their yellow t-shirts looked like a bus! They love to walk to school with their friends. It’s the only day I get them out the door early to school.”

The “Walking School Bus” is a great way to start the day, and from the smiles on the faces of the children, parents, teachers, and administrators, it’s sure to happen again. Now that summer is here, be sure to get outside with family and friends and keep active. You’ll want to be in shape the next time the walking school bus stops by.

story & photo by Marjorie Turner Hollman,
Bulletin Contributing Writer




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