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A step in the right direction

Energetic challenge is all about fitness and fun

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December 15th, 2016
First place honors in Tallgrass Creek’s “Walk Across America” challenge went to resident Dick Marquette (center) for 272 miles. Jeanne Hershey (left) placed second with 240 miles, and third place went to Jerry Brazil (right) with 191 miles.

First place honors in Tallgrass Creek’s “Walk Across America” challenge went to resident Dick Marquette (center) for 272 miles. Jeanne Hershey (left) placed second with 240 miles, and third place went to Jerry Brazil (right) with 191 miles.

Walking, golfing, swimming, gardening—any form of exercise all counted in the “Walk Across America” challenge held earlier this year at Tallgrass Creek, a continuing care retirement community in Overland Park, Kans. 

Erickson Living, developer and manager of Tallgrass Creek and 18 other communities in 11 states, sponsors the annual month-long competition between residents and staff. 

The competition challenges resident and staff teams to begin a virtual walking journey from Ocean City, Md., on the east coast toward the west coast. 

Both teams track their distance weekly on a giant map of America posted in Tallgrass Creek’s fitness center as if walkers are actually traversing the country. This year’s challenge attracted 123 Tallgrass Creek residents and 55 staff members.

“We had more participants than ever this year, and they traveled much farther,” says Wellness Coordinator Cydney Cunningham, the contest’s official scorekeeper.  “By week two, the resident team had made it halfway through Colorado, and the contest was only half over.” 

Miles were measured in time walked, with 20 minutes equating one mile. Any nonwalking exercise (chair exercise, gardening, lifting weights) counted as half the minutes. Team members kept track of their progress via personal logs of miles walked. Each week, Cunningham posted both groups’ locations in a “Where are we now?” section on the enormous map.

Walk around the world

Resident walkers won the competition with a record 7,983 miles walked in the one-month period.  

“They made it across the country, then to Hawaii, then on to Taiwan, so it became ‘the walk around the world,’” laughs Cunningham. 

Dick Marquette defended his title as top resident walker for the second year in a row. He walked 272 miles in 30 days. 

In addition to enjoying the exercise, something else happened during his daily walks.

“I lost ten pounds,” notes Dick, also a golfer. “Now the challenge is to keep it off.”

It probably won’t be a problem. Dick and wife Deanna are familiar figures early every morning walking around the campus and along Metcalf Avenue, which borders Tallgrass Creek. 

“We’re both early birds and enjoy the early morning air and sounds,” says Dick, a retired architect. “Walking is a daily part of our lives.” 

Second place honors went to Jeanne Hershey, who logged 240 miles during the contest
period. Jeanne and her rescue dog Milton, a Jack-a-bee (Jack Russell terrier and beagle mix), are also familiar figures walking the campus. 

“I walk Milton about five times a day,” says Jeanne. “He loves it, and so do I.” 

Third place honors went to Jerry Brazil, who logged 191 miles; fourth place went to Dee Berry at 176 miles; fifth place went to Rose Seifferlein with 169 miles; and sixth place went to Bill Converse at 168 miles. 

Staff walkers did their part by logging a total of 5,021 miles, which took them clear to Hawaii. Last year’s top walker, Ron Wilson, came in first again this year with 230 miles. Other top staff walkers were Cougar Gray, Ben Winslow, Camin Bell, Ann Kleikamp, and Maureen O’Connor. 

International competitors were community members Norm Dalton and Joyce Keeler, who were traveling in England and Wales during the contest period and did much of their walking on cobblestones, uneven ground, and around castles.  

“I never knew there were that many castles with so many stairs that go up and down,” laughs Norm. “We were in good shape when we went and in better shape now.” 

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