Follow the Leader
Mayor Bill Bogaard gets Pasadenans off the couch and on their feet in monthly fitness walks around the Rose Bowl.
By Noela Hueso 01/01/2010
It’s a bright, crisp October morning at the Rose Bowl and Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard is ready to take a walk.
And why not? He has plenty of company — about 30 constituents who have come out to get some exercise as well as a little bit of face time with Pasadena’s No. 1 citizen.
The occasion? A monthly event dubbed Walk With the Mayor, organized by Up & Moving Pasadena, a nonprofit dedicated to getting citizens off their duff and on the road.
Some special guests are on hand as well. During a recent mayor’s walk — held the first Wednesday of the month — they are Pasadena Fire Chief Dennis J. Downs and Pasadena Forward’s executive director, Israel Estrada, the force behind the Pasadena Marathon. Everyone is there to support Up & Moving’s 3-year-old mission to encourage Pasadenans to grab a friend and put on their walking shoes.
After a few opening remarks by the mayor, his guests and Kristen Farley, one of Up & Moving’s two program coordinators and a key player behind the organization’s success, the group heads counterclockwise around the Bowl. It’s exactly 7:45 a.m. Along the way, joggers do double takes and golfers stop mid-swing to wave at the mayor and his throng striding by.
Jerram Swartz, co-owner of the Old Town Cooking School, has been attending the monthly walks around the 3.1-mile loop for the past five months or so. He views them as a great networking opportunity for local business owners. “It’s a perfect intersection of community and exercise — touching base with people and feeling good that I’m able to do it without collapsing,” he says with a laugh. “But I never bring business cards; I should always bring business cards.”
Swartz adds that Bogaard is the main draw. “The mayor is truly an inspiration to us,” he says. “He’s a really personable guy.” Farley agrees that the mayor’s participation over the past year has been invaluable. “It has sent the message that hey, the mayor’s a busy guy, but he can find an hour to walk.” Up & Moving’s most high-profile venture is also helping it lure people who need to work out but find exercise alone an insufficient incentive to get off the couch. “More often [we’re] getting people who just think it’s a great opportunity to have a community event experience,” Farley says. “It’s been hard to figure out how to change lifestyle habits with the ones who need it most.” Up & Moving is the brainchild of Peggy Phelps, a Pasadena arts philanthropist on the board of the Armory Center of the Arts and patron of an eponymous gallery at Claremont Graduate School. It was Phelps’ concern about childhood obesity that led her to create Up & Moving with the help of influential friends. “I came up with the idea that the city, the schools, the health department – somebody – should take on the problem,” Phelps says.
Her interest was spurred by a more personal concern: an overweight grandson who gained weight not as a child, but as an adult. A conversation with her friend Larry Wilson, the public editor of the Pasadena Star-News, led to a meeting with Karen Aydelott, the executive director of the YMCA; Mary Donnelly Crocker, the former executive director at local nonprofit Young and Healthy; and Pasadena school and public health administrators. An anonymous donor helped seed the program’s launch.
Along the way, Up & Moving’s original emphasis on childhood obesity expanded into an effort to reach the entire community. “We just wanted to create a positive community-based program — to get people out doing something,” Farley says. “But we’ve never forgotten the foundation was an interest in childhood obesity. By trying to create a community of fitness — a well community — we were hoping to have an impact on that kind of problem.”
The plan was simple enough and, with the mayor’s help, the impact has been positive but not as widespread as organizers had hoped. Coordinators discovered that the people they’re trying to reach — those who most need to walk — are often unmotivated without a push. In the past, Up & Moving employed walkers to get groups going. But when paid walkers were no longer involved, the groups faded away.
Similarly, getting walking groups started in the schools has been a challenge. “It’s been statistically proven that when youngsters start in an activity program that’s fun — not necessarily competitive and stressful — they learn to enjoy moving and have a good time,” Aydelott says. “However it comes about, it’s much more likely that they will maintain it throughout their lifetime.”
But these days things are looking up, organizers say. In October, Up & Moving came under the umbrella of Pasadena Forward, a community-service nonprofit funded mainly by the Pasadena Marathon. As a result, kids who participate will now have a goal to strive for: the marathon’s companion 5K event in February. In concert with the YMCA’s after-school programs, Up & Moving is sponsoring 125 kids (and one family member each) in the race. Farley is optimistic that the event will attract young bodies to the cause, but she’s quick to point out that Up & Moving walking programs are not competitive. “I don’t ever see Up & Moving shifting toward being a training program to compete,” she says. “We really want to remember that the initial focus was walking for fitness and walking as a convenient, cheap way to accomplish that.”
Creating or getting involved in an Up & Moving walking program is as simple as going to the website, upandmoving.org, and signing up. A group leader gets a T-shirt, pedometer and logging cards for each participant. Walkers set their own goals for a three-month time frame and, on reaching them, receive T-shirts in recognition.
The mayor, who says he’s eager for the program to continue into the foreseeable future, has committed to leading monthly walks again this year. “At all levels, people should exercise more than they do,” says Bogaard, an avid cyclist as well. “Young or old, people can have more fun in their lives if they include exercise as a regular part of their day.”
Up & Moving Pasadena’s Walk With the Mayor meets at 7:30 a.m. on the first Wednesday of the month at the Rose Bowl Main Gate (Gate A), 1001 Rose Bowl Dr., Pasadena. Call (626) 797-7238 or visit upandmoving.org.