Blue Zones Project Pottawatomie County recently announced the winners of the Walking School Bus Challenge.

Blue Zones Project Pottawatomie County recently announced the winners of the Walking School Bus Challenge.

To help grow healthy kids and a healthy community, Shawnee Mayor Richard Finley joined with the organization to challenge local schools to walk to Japan (6,350 miles) — home of sister city Nikaho and an original blue zone, Okinawa.

“They started this challenge at the beginning of the semester and have now exceeded the original goal by walking 7,818 miles to date,” Blue Zones Project's Project Manager Taylor Shekarabi said.

“Shawnee Middle School had the most participation and received $1,000, thanks to the mayor,” she said. “Pleasant Grove Public School had the second most participation and received $500, thanks to First United Bank.”

Students that participated six or more times during the challenge earned free entry to the Bell St. Retro Arcade — thanks to its generosity.

Other schools that participated include Grove School, Will Rogers Elementary, Horace Mann Elementary and Sequoyah Elementary.

“None of this would have been possible without the partners, as well as teachers, administrators, parents and volunteers that helped make walking to school safe and fun,” Shekarabi said.

Blue Zones Project-Approved Worksite BancFirst adopted a route to walk and OBU Bison Buddies also stepped up to walk with students, she explained.

Also, City of Shawnee Police Department stepped up to help students cross safely at several busy intersections.

“Students were able to walk safely to school with the help of walking school buses,” she said. “A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school under the supervision of trusted adult volunteers.” Walking school buses operate much like a traditional school bus with stops, where children are picked up and walk together to school.

Several of the walking routes were along Avedis Foundation Trails and recently improved sidewalks. The program provides students with a safe route to school, extra physical activity and the opportunity to make new friends.

“It also decreases traffic congestion around schools and reduces tardiness,” Shekarabi said.

The challenge might be over, but the walking has just begun.

Blue Zones Project is encouraging parents, local worksites and other supporting organizations to partner with schools by providing volunteers to lead the bus.

If interested in participating, email taylor.shekarabi@sharecare.com.

She said volunteers are subject to background checks, provided with free training and need to make a scheduled commitment.

For more information, visit www.bluezonesproject.com.