Walk This Way


Buddies trim their cancer risks and get their community moving, too

Rose Hogan and her friends didn’t aim to change the world. But they did set the bar high when they organized a walking club in Cobden, a village of 1,000 residents in southern Illinois.

“We thought it would be fun to do a virtual walk across the United States,” says Rose, a community health partner with the American Cancer Society’s Marion office. “We had no idea how many people would join us on our trip!”

It all started with a newspaper article on walking for fitness last January. Rose and her friend Sandi Buchheit shared it with another friend, Edith Tomas, and together they agreed to try it out.

3 for the road

“We found a website that helps you map a virtual route from coast to coast,” says Rose. “We chose a path from Delaware to California, passing right near Cobden,” she says.

Local businesses donated pedometers to keep track of club members’ steps and notebooks to log the miles. Rose, Sandi and Edith pledged to walk together 3 times weekly, but members were free to step out anytime and report their progress at village hall, the local grocery store or Rose’s e-mail inbox.

“We had 50 kits ready at our kickoff in March – and we ran out in a matter of hours!” Rose reports. Seventy-five members came on board immediately, and by June, total miles walked came to 5,842.

“We’d reached California and were on our way back east.”

The club now boasts 128 members who’ve walked more than 7,000 miles on their virtual journey, shedding pounds and cutting cancer risks along the way.

A village-wide partnership

The secret, Rose says, was keeping it fun and using all the community’s resources.

“We encouraged teachers at our local school to work it into their health, geography and math lessons,” she explains. “We did blood pressure and glucose tests with the local health department. People found great places to walk, like the Student Recreation Center at Southern Illinois University. One member even turned her miles in from overseas – she walked all over Europe last summer.”

That’s the beauty of walking – you can do it anywhere, anytime, without special clothing or equipment regardless of your fitness level, Rose points out. “We’ve had lovely calls from the families of people who have serious health issues, thanking us for getting them moving,” she says.

How have the 3 friends fared? “Well, I can tell you my pants are very loose now!” Rose jokes. With continued support, this fitness club will complete its round-trip U.S. tour well before their 1st anniversary and keep on striding for better health.

STEP IT UP! How many steps will you take getting ready for Relay For Life®, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer® or Walk & Roll® this season? Get a pedometer and log your progress – or better yet, team up with other volunteers to start a walking club! For more ideas, visit cancer.org/healthy or call your local Society office.