Summer Steps challenge gets people walking By Lori Kersey May 11, 2013 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last year 19 Monroe County residents walked a combined total of nearly 1,000 miles in three months. That's the distance from the courthouse in Union to Key Largo, Fla. The group, comprised of mostly county employees, helped Monroe County win last year's Summer Steps challenge from the West Virginia University Extension Service and the West Virginia Association of Counties. In the Summer Steps challenge, residents of West Virginia counties compete to see which county can walk the most miles during the summer months. "When it was all said and done I didn't have any inclination we would finish on top but we did," said Donnie Evans, Monroe County clerk. While Evans didn't walk, he did suggest the idea to the rest of the employees at the courthouse and encouraged them to take part. "I thought it would be a good program to participate in and at the same time it would be a good, healthy program to participate in," Evans said. Many of the people who started walking for the contest are still walking, he said. "It didn't just stop after the competition or what have you. So that was a positive thing." Tisha Terry, a payroll clerk in Evans' office, helped organize the group's efforts, he said. "She actually did a lot of the leg work," Evans said. "I just encouraged it and they just took it and ran from there. It was a good program." This is the second year of the challenge, which started in part as a response to the Gazette series "The Shape We're In." Participants track how many miles they walk and report it to the Livewellwv.org website, which tracks the overall miles for the entire county. Twenty minutes of physical activity counts as one mile. Last year, participants from 33 counties walked a combined total of 4,276 miles, or about the distance from New York to Hawaii, said Cassie Waugh, communications manager for the extension service. Patti Hamilton, executive director of the Association of Counties, said officials considered changing the program to make it different from last year's. "We tried to think of another one, but walking is simple," she said. "There's no cost involved and anyone can do it. So it just seemed like we should do it again." The WVU Extension Service will do a walkability study for the winning county. Monroe's study is yet to be done, though. "We'll go into the community ... the specialists will walk around and make suggestions about how to make it more walkable," Waugh said. "To improve the areas where people do walk." Livewellwv.org is about encouraging people to make small changes in their lives to make themselves healthier, Waugh said. Walking is something simple that people can do to be healthier, she said. "I think it's just a nice way for people to get out and see their community, too," Waugh said. "[They can] walk downtown or to the park, start a new walking group or meet with old friends." The contest is free. It starts June 1 and goes through August 31. To participate, visit www.livewellwv.org and register for a free account. Reach Lori Kersey at email@example.com or 304-348-1240.