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Take a hike – all the way to your kid's school

Walk to School Day, as celebrated by those in Milwaukie's Ardenwald neighborhood, is slated to begin Oct. 4 at 7:30 a.m. at Lisac's Fireplaces and Stoves, located at 9035 SE 32nd Avenue.

The concept is a simple one: At that time, parents, teachers, schoolchildren and neighbors will gather and walk the children to school.

But this seemingly small event is, in fact, part of a much larger process.

Walk to School Day is an international activity that has been going in Europe for 30 years, said Robert Ping, who is the program director for Safe Routes to School, part of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

He noted that Ardenwald Elementary School is the 'statewide media school for the event,' and he is working to bring VIP's to the walk that day.

'Susan Castillo, the state superintendent of schools, will be there,' Ping noted, and added that he is working on bringing in some TV coverage as well.

Although he is excited about possible media attention, Ping's main goal is to get to the 'grassroots level' - to get local community involvement in the event, in order to educate people about making sure children have safe routes to walk and bike to school.

Ardenwald neighbor Sherri Campbell is about as 'grassroots' as they come - she, in fact, began the Ardenwald Walk to School Day eight years ago.

'I read about [the Walk to School Day program] in Walking magazine, and I got the materials and we started doing it,' Campbell said.

'I saw it, I liked it, I did it,' she added.

She also noted that she wanted to do something to combat unsafe walking routes in her neighborhood, when a young girl was run over 10 years ago.

'She was going home from school and was let off the bus, she went behind the bus and a truck doing the speed limit hit her. I saw her little pink backpack under the wheels of the truck,' Campbell said.

Lifeflight picked up the girl, who survived the accident, Campbell added.

After that event occurred, 300 people came together to see if there was something to be done about local traffic problems, Campbell noted.

'It really brought the neighborhood together,' she said, and the annual Walk to School Day evolved out of that community concern.

There is still some frustration with the event, however.

'Last year we had 100 people, teachers, a fire truck, police cars and a little cluster of kids trying to cross the street - do you think the cars will slow down? It drives me crazy,' Campbell said.

She and Ping hope to gradually educate drivers about how important it is to slow down in school zones, and not just for one day.

'As part of the Safe Routes to School program, we are trying to change behavior,' Ping noted.

Children will be given healthy snack food items and colorful whistles, and participating adults will receive brochures about pedestrian and bicycle safety for children and detailing how to determine the 'Walkability index' of their neighborhood.

Campbell said she expects representatives from the City of Milwaukie, including the mayor, to be on hand for the Oct. 4 event.

She noted that her goals for being involved revolve around community involvement, pedestrian and bicycle safety for children and children's health.

She added, 'I'm looking for volunteers to be the 'caboose,' the last person who will bring up the rear, to keep stragglers in line - to make sure that everyone makes it across.'