The crowd of nearly 150 people walking together down Figueroa Street this morning - sporting exercise clothing and smiles - elicited some sideways glances from South L.A. drivers doing double-takes.
The two-mile walk, which led residents and community members between local clinics, was in celebration of National Health Center Week, held annually on the second week of August. The event was designed to promote the health care provided by community clinics, while also encouraging residents to get out and exercise.
OnCentral has the inaugural walk’s highlights:
9 to 9:15 a.m. - Stretching with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas
The walk kicked off with a stretching session in the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (pictured at right), whose office co-hosted the event with the Southside Coalition of Community Clinics and the Empowerment Congress, swung his arms and touched his toes with the rest of the participants.
He then led the way out of the health center and up Hoover Street, followed by residents, community clinic partners and supporters.
“I think [the walk] is an important statement, and a good day for promoting community health centers throughout our community,” Ridley-Thomas said.
9:15 to 10 a.m. - More than 4,000 steps in the heat
Pedometers provided by UMMA Community Clinic hung on the hips of walkers as they strode from St. John’s clinic past UMMA and into nearby Mount Carmel Park. The two-mile walk generated between 4,000 and 5,000 steps for most participants.
But for Ridley-Thomas, the walk brought him past 7,000 steps. He said had already walked for a bit earlier in the morning, and hoped to reach about 10,000 steps by the end of the day.
Others, like Cadonna Dory, declared this walk their exercise for the day. Dory was out walking with a few of her co-workers from Building Healthy Communities South L.A., an initiative through the California Endowment, and she said she tries to walk about 30 minutes every day.
“It’s good to see everybody out here exercising for the day,” she said.
The approximately 150 walkers that came out were not discouraged by the high temperature, which was well past 80 degrees when the event started.
“I’m definitely starting to feel the heat now,” said Angela Chavez, who works for the Watts Health Center, about halfway into the walk. Sweat beads dripped down her forehead, but she kept on going – with a smile on her face.
10 to 11 a.m. - Refreshments, health services and shuttles
Walkers were met with fresh fruit, bottles of water and dozens of health pamphlets once they reached Mount Carmel Park around 10 a.m. Community clinics and partners set up booths along the park to offer participants information about the health services and resources they provide. HIV testing, blood pressure screenings and voter registration forms were also available.
Some community members walked around the park, scanning the different booths, while others sat to catch their breath under the shade.
Around 11 a.m., the event started thinning out. Most participants - tuckered out from the walk and the heat - loaded into a shuttle and were driven back to St. John’s.
All photos by Kylie Reynolds.