Walk-a-thon raises more than money

Allegheny College is collaborating with several local non-profit organizations to raise money for the Meadville Summer Parks Program. The money and awareness come from a walk-a-thon involving over 20 teams, three of which are from Allegheny College.
“With our fraternity, we have a lot of guys walking around and putting in their hours,” said Phi Gamma Delta brother Garrett Paxton, ’25. “Most of what I do is I have a spreadsheet where I have to calculate what one person does and it tells you how much they do, but also how much everyone does. Our goal is to get 1,000 but, like, there’s over 20 of us walking so we’re trying to make it be like 2,000 or almost 3,000. I’m at a total of 106 miles in just three weeks.”
The other two Allegheny teams are made of dance studio members and several staff members.
Executive Director for Economic, Civic and Community Engagement Andy Walker, ’00, is the coordinator for the staff team, and at the time he was interviewed on April 14, 27 people had combined to walk 896 miles.
“It’s just a way to build awareness and support and gather community around the effort to bring Summer Parks Programming back,” Walker said. “Just a way for the Allegheny community to support the larger community and providing just good constructive opportunities for the youth in town.”
The nonprofit organizations involved are the YMCA, Women’s Services and HOPE Initiative. Creating Landscapes originally reached out to the organizations to raise awareness and support for bringing the Summer Parks Program back after COVID-19. Creative Landscapes coordinator Janyce Hyatt, as both a parent and teacher, is passionate about raising money for the program.
“I think that children thrive when they’re playing outside,” Hyatt said. “And I think that Meadville, Pennsylvania, is just such a beautiful place, and to have children playing outside in the summer, away from their devices, getting exercise, fresh air, sunshine and in a really rich educational and fun environment — it helps reduce summer melt that is notorious for children.”
The Summer Parks Program has been running recently in Meadville for several years after thriving decades ago. With renovations planned at Huidekoper Park, money is now being raised for both the renovations and to support holding the program at Shadybrook Park instead.
“There’s going to be more basketball courts, more sports courts, new playground equipment — I believe there’s going to be a dog park and a walking park,” said Mark McGinty, director for the Meadville Summer Parks Program. “Now, all these are not confirmed, but we’re just going to plan that.”
There has been a “fairly active and robust” Summer Parks Program at several of the city parks previously that would host fishing tournaments, marble tournaments, crafts and lots of outdoor exploration, according to Walker. There will also be incorporation of music, arts and theater and also field trips with the French Creek Conservancy, according to McGinty.
The program in its re-established form is also tackling issues like transportation and food. In order to get more children to the program, money is being raised for that initiative as well.
“About 95% of our kids that came from the park last year were from Fairmont-Fairview,” McGinty said, referring to an apartment complex adjacent to Huidekoper Park. “And so I believe getting those kids from that area to Shadybrook would be a huge issue. So we are trying to get some buses so we can get those that were regulars a chance to experience that again this summer.”
The program itself is also totally nonprofit and tuition-free for the children, according to Maria Rosado-Husband, a trauma-informed community organizer for Hope Initiative. Between HOPE Initiative and Women’s Services, women will be taking shifts to work at the program.
“This program made people in the community talk about how important it is for the children that live here to have these healthy activities that are safe and structured, and it gives the whole community a sense of happiness to watch the joy on the faces of these kids,” Rosado-Husband said. “It also means that we’re headed in the right direction and that’s huge.”
Not only is the walk-a-thon supporting the children of Meadville, it is spreading awareness and improving the community, according to McGinty.
“The walk-a-thon, of course, helps with physical awareness and physical activity,” McGinty said. “That is good, just the premise that businesses and community members of Meadville are getting together for one common goal and standing together.”
There has been a large sum of state funding also received because of the mass support raised for the program, according to Walker. The walk-a-thon and donations are making a difference in the community for children and families, and walking is a great way to get involved since you just need to “keep working to get miles and just walk,” according to Paxton. Another way to get involved is by attending a fundraiser at Cup n’ Spoon Coffee and Frozen Yogurt Bar, 882 Park Ave., on Thursday, May 4, from 2 to 8 p.m., or to join one of the Allegheny walking teams.
“If you have thriving children, you have happier families,” Hyatt said. “If you have happier families, you’ve got a richer, fuller community. I want that to happen. I live in Meadville. I want it to be the best place on Earth.”