Walking Moai is set to celebrate success

Published 10:00 am Thursday, August 27, 2009

The several hundred participants of the Walking Moai program will come together tonight to celebrate their accomplishments in one of several AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project initiatives.

During the celebration, at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds, awards will be presented to the groups that walked the most steps, had the most volunteer hours and walked together the most as an entire group.

Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner will also speak and congratulate the walkers. The public is invited to attend, and national media are expected to be in attendance.

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“The Walking Moai program has been an absolute success,” said Joel Spoonheim, health initiatives director for Blue Zones, in a prepared statement. “Everyone should come hear the inspirational stories about new friends, healthier bodies and the great fun enjoyed this summer. For those who missed out, they can learn how to get involved soon in this amazing adventure.”

Walking groups are asked to meet at the parking lot of Calvary Baptist Church on Bridge Avenue at 6:30 p.m. to walk together to the Freeborn County Fairgrounds.

The walkers will enter the fairgrounds from Richway Drive. Other people not with the group who wish to attend are encouraged to enter the fairgrounds, via vehicles, at the main entrance on Bridge Street. 

The ceremony at the fairgrounds will begin at 7 p.m.

The Walking Moai program kicked off in June at four area schools, when coordinators invited residents interested in boosting their social connections, friendships, physical activity and overall good habits to come together.

At that time coordinators emphasized that the walking moais are more than walking groups, they are close groups of friends who watch after each other.

A moai is a term that originates in the city of Okinawa, Japan, where children are put into small groups with other children when they are young. The children stay with the other members of their group throughout their lives. They walk together, talk together, garden together, eat together and share life’s experiences together. While they share the joys of life together, they also share the hard times, and as a result create strong bonds.

The goal of the walking moai in Albert Lea was to create something similar as in Okinawa, where people are engaged and connected to each other. The walking is a side benefit.

After week nine of the program, participants had walked more than 66 million steps, or approximately 33,000 miles, according to coordinator Jeshua Erickson’s AlbertLeaTribune.com blog. Participants have also volunteered more than 1,900 hours, Erickson wrote.

The leading team after week nine had walked more than 5 million steps alone.