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Valley Journals

Altara Community Walks with Jazz Bear to School

Aug 03, 2016 10:09AM ● By Julie Slama

The Utah Jazz Bear walks with a group of students to Altara Elementary on May 10 as the Christiansen family won the Utah Department of Transportation’s Spring Walk ‘n Win contest. — Julie Slama

Sandy, Utah - After a six-week statewide competition aimed to increase student biking and walking to school, an Altara family was the lucky winner of the Utah Jazz Bear serving them breakfast May 10 and joining their “walking school bus” before helping to present $500 to the school.

The Utah Department of Transportation developed the walking school bus application then invited parents to download and use the app between March 21 and April 29 that would enter themselves, their students and school in the Spring Walk ’n Win.

Parent Wendy Christiansen downloaded the application and continued to walk her children, fourth-grader Adam and kindergartner Sarah, and their friends, to school.

“The app is nice to remind you when to leave for school,” Christiansen said about their ¾-mile walk. “We can record who is going, where we’re going, and past walks we’ve been on.”

According to the rules, each time the group walks to school using the app, everyone is entered to win prizes so the more times the group walks with the app, the greater their chances to win.

“We walk all the time, when it snows, rains or is sunny, so I guess that helped enter us more. Some mornings it’s tough to get the kids up and moving for school, but not today with the Jazz Bear here,” Christiansen said.

The Jazz Bear helped serve the family and about 15 others a pancake breakfast, complete with fruit and juice in the family driveway.

Then, they started down the hill ¾-mile to the school, with the Jazz Bear borrowing Crossing Guard Lisa VanWagenen’s stop sign so he could stop traffic for the group.

Six-year-old Sarah Christiansen said it was a fun morning.

“I liked him because he gave me a big hug, then he walked me to school,” Sarah said. “And then, he scared everyone at school with his surprises.”

Those included shooting silly string as students gathered around the Jazz Bear on the playground shortly before the official announcement about the money to the school.

UDOT Spokesperson Abby Shaha said that by encouraging students to walk, not only does it promote healthy lifestyles for the kids, but it also reduces traffic and its pollution.

“We’re hoping to impact the quality of life for everyone by sending the one message about biking and walking,” she said, adding that the school’s safety patrol will receive new reflective vests as well. “We want to make sure there are safe walking routes to every school and that students and parents are aware of them.”

Principal Nicole Svee Magann said that she would like to use the money to help promote a similar walking system at the school next year.

“We could promote biking and walking and reduce the traffic here at drop-off and pick-up times,” she said. “About 90 percent of our students live within one mile of our school and that would be huge to help the students and families lead a healthier lifestyle. It would help with the safety around our school and create a better atmosphere.”

Altara Parent-Teacher Association President Melissa Colson said that the whole experience was uplifting.

“It was a really great experience that it honored one of our families’ who started a walking school bus with a generous breakfast and the Jazz Bear making things fun as well as donating the funds to our school,” she said. “It is a great thing that is being encouraged — promoting health, building friendships where parents meet other parents of their kids’ friends and encouraging a better environment.”