For Immediate Release - May 01, 2013

Mass in Motion Springfield Hosts Walk to School Day Event

Department of Public Health celebrates national award given to Brightwood Elementary School

SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today joined the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), Springfield officials and community groups at an event recognizing Springfield’s Brightwood Elementary School as the recipient of the James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award, a national award for its Walking School Bus initiative.

The national award was given as Mass in Motion Springfield, an initiative sponsored by DPH, celebrated Walk to School Day. Walk to School Day is a collaboration between DPH’s Mass in Motion and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School program to create safer streets, promote physical activity, and build sustainable environments in over 160 communities throughout Massachusetts. Mass in Motion works with communities across the Commonwealth to promote healthy eating and active living for youth and adults.

The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program has been particularly successful in Springfield, where the Walking School Bus at the Brightwood School, led by school staff, accommodates 130 students daily. The Walking School Bus initiative started as a grassroots effort with six to ten children and now has expanded to three routes throughout the city. In recognition of its success, the Brightwood School received the James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award, given annually for an outstanding achievement in implementing a Safe Routes to School program in the United States. The Brightwood School Walking School Bus program was started in 2010 by Karen Pohlman, a Baystate nurse practitioner, and joined by Mass in Motion in 2011.

“The impact a Walking School Bus can have on a community is tremendous,” said DPH Interim Deputy Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett. “Successful communities like Springfield have seen increased attendance, improved safety, and increased activity among students as a result of implementing this program. Walking school buses are an example of a simple, effective, and fun strategy to help kids get more exercise. We are here to support other schools and groups of parents in starting up their own walking school buses.”

“We are pleased to recognize the Brightwood School as the first Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Partner being honored with the James L. Oberstar Award,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey. “It’s great to see that a grassroots initiative can turn itself into a community movement through the work of various champions who are looking to make their community a safer place for children to walk and bicycle to school.”

The May 1 event started with a group of local and statewide officials, community members, and parents joining the children in the walking school bus to Brightwood Elementary School, and concluded with the award ceremony. The event was attended by State Representative Cheryl Coakely-Rivera, DPH Interim Deputy Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, Springfield Director of Health and Human Services Helen Caulton Harris, and Samantha Fonseca-Moreira of MassDOT.

About Mass in Motion

Mass in Motion is a statewide movement helping local communities increase opportunities for residents to eat better and move more in the places they live, learn, work, and play. DPH’s Mass in Motion Municipal Wellness and Leadership Program is made up of 33 local programs representing 52 cities and towns. These Mass in Motion communities receive technical assistance and grant funding to make changes that turn the healthy choice into the easy choice for community members.

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