Walking moai competition about to take first steps

Published 8:16 am Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 20: Kickoff event at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds.

June/July/August: Ward walks with city council members.

Aug. 10: Teams stop tracking for the competition.

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Aug. 26: Finale event.

Competition groups:

 Students (elementary, middle or high school students)

 Seniors (citizens over 70)

 Miscellaneous age groups (groups with a mix of ages)


One of the most visible initiatives of the 2010 Vitality Project will soon be under way, with the kickoff of the moai competition on Thursday.

The kickoff — or perhaps walkoff — will begin at 7 p.m. at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds.

Catherine Buboltz, one of the organizers of the initiative, said people are encouraged to park at the Brookside Education Center at 6:30 p.m. and then walk to the fairgrounds to get a headstart on moai credit that night.

Albert Lea Medical Center staff will be in attendance starting at 6:30 p.m. to give free blood pressure screening and body mass index checks.

During the kickoff, residents will be introduced to the two new Vitality Project coordinators, Pat Garbish and Alice Englin, and the other initiatives for the year will also be discussed, Buboltz said.

Blue Zones Founder Dan Buettner will speak to the crowd for a few minutes, and organizers will explain the premise behind this year’s moai competition.

Buboltz said organizers hope to have the whole kickoff wrapped up after 30 or 45 minutes.

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 together 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.

The goal of the moais in Albert Lea is to create something similar as in Okinawa, where people are engaged and connected to each other.

Last year the program focused solely on walking groups; this year, it is focusing on walking plus other forms of activity. A conversion chart will be handed out that night.

Another change to the moai program this year is that people who participate with their moai at least once a week will be able to count all of their individual activity that week as well — this includes activity steps from dancing, jogging, aerobics and all other forms of activity. Last year, only steps completed with a moai could be counted.

People who walk to a church service or participate in a walking school bus will also be able to double their steps during that walk, up to one time a week for the church walk.

“We want everybody there because all eyes are going to be on us this year to see what we do on our own,” Buboltz said.

Moais will be put into four different competition groups: students, moai groups of children under 18; seniors, moai groups of citizens over 70; miscellaneous age groups; and workplace groups.

In each of the competition groups, moais will have the opportunity to win for most steps and most volunteer hours. Both categories will be averaged out per person in the moai.

The competition will run through Aug. 10, with a finale event scheduled for Aug. 26.

Those interested in participating will be able to sign up their teams the night of the kickoff.

Extra pedometers will be available for those who need them.

“It’s going to be a really fun event again this year,” she said.

In case of rain, the event will be in the underside of the grandstand.

Once the program gets started, steps and volunteer hours will be turned in weekly by team captains to the moai coordinators, who will in turn give the weekly totals to coordinator Jeshua Erickson, who will post the steps online.

For questions, contact Buboltz at 377-0835.