Be Safe, Be Seen during Alaska’s dark winter months

When you walk or bike through Alaska during winter’s dark months, are you making sure to “Be Safe, Be Seen?”

Even though a pedestrian may be on sidewalks separated from cars, you still need to make sure your clothes are bright and reflective. That way drivers can see you when they leave their home and business driveways and enter traffic.

Why wearing white is not enough.

Too many people in Alaska wear black clothes during the winter, including when they are walking or biking. This doesn’t give the drivers a fighting chance to see you before it’s too late. Not only is it dark during the winter, but in heavy snow years there are berms that can make it difficult to see walkers and bikers. Also, some drivers don’t wait for their windshields to fully defrost, so their vision is obstructed.

The typical driver needs 260 feet to stop at 60 mph, but dark blue or black clothes only give them about 55 feet. Red clothes are a little bit better, giving drivers 80 feet, while yellow clothes give 120 feet and white clothes give 180 feet (if you can pick the person out from the snow background). People wearing reflectors can be seen as far away as 500 feet.

This is why many Alaska walkers and bikers wear reflective tape on their clothes or reflective vests, even on short trips such as checking the mail or walking the dog. Click here to learn more about the state’s Alaska Reflector Program. The Center for Safe Alaskans’ Bike and Walk Safe Program will mail free reflective tape to people who call (907) 929-3939, or click this link. The Center for Safe Alaskans (when it was known as the Alaska Injury Prevention Center) also produced a YouTube video that shows how reflective tape makes you easier to see.

Don’t forget to put reflective tape on your sleeves, backpack, rain pants, bike helmet and bike frame, not just on the trunk of your jacket. And if you’re biking, don’t forget you are required by state law to have a solid white light on front and red reflector on bike when you are on the road after dark.

“I have found that cutting the (reflective) tape length-wise and placing it on the jacket exterior on a moving part of the body (such as around the wrist area), in addition to placement on the torso, yields high visibility,” said Lulu Jensen, Center for Safe Alaskans project director.

Help your kids celebrate International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day on Wednesday, Oct. 2

walk-to-school-1

WalkToSchoolDay_HomepageMapNot too long ago, most of us walked or biked to school. But now, most kids arrive at school via their parents’ cars or school buses. Wednesday, Oct. 2, is International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day, and Sitka parents and teachers are encouraged to help their schoolchildren safely walk or bike to school on this day.

In 1970, more than half of all elementary school students ages 6-11 walked to school. By 2006, only 15 percent were walking to school. Alarmed by this trend, a group called the Partnership for a Walkable America started National Walk To School Day in 1997 as a one-day event aimed at building awareness for the need for walkable communities. In 2000, the event became international when the UK and Canada (both of which had already been promoting walking to school) and the USA joined together for the first International Walk to School Day. In addition to expanding into several other countries, the dates also have expanded and October is International Walk To School Month.

“Walking or biking to school is an excellent way to add some physical activity into your day,” said Doug Osborne, a health educator with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). “It can be a great way to start the day. Walking or biking can be a lot of fun. It’s also important to remember to be safe.”

WBTSD_12inch_ColorWalking or biking to school with their children is a good way for parents to catch up on what’s happening in their children’s lives. Other benefits to walking or biking to school include less traffic, cleaner air, and friendlier communities. Walking with their children is a good way for parents see if there are things along the route that can be done to improve safety, such as improving lighting, checking crosswalks and watching for aggressive pets along the route.

International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day is a great teaching tool for safety. Parents and teachers can teach the kids about road safety rules and the importance of being visible when they walk or bike alongside the roads. They also can check their kids’ clothes and backpacks to make sure they have reflective tape on them.

Why wearing white is not enough.

Reflective tape is particularly important as we enter the dark months of the winter. Students need to Be Safe, Be Seen, and reflective tape can make a big difference in their visibility. Not only are kids sometimes hard to be seen because they’re blocked by cars, but many cars in Southeast Alaska experience condensation problems during the fall and winter that make it hard to see through windshields. Reflective tape and blinking lights can make it so kids are seen hundreds of feet before they would be if they wore plain dark clothes. Parents can buy reflective tape from local sporting goods, fabric, and similar stores. Sometimes it’s available from local health organizations. The Center for Safe Alaskans (formerly known as the Alaska Injury Prevention Center) produced a YouTube video (also embedded below) that shows how reflective tape makes you easier to see, and will have some free reflective tape available starting in October 2019.

To learn more about International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day, contact your local school to see if any events are scheduled, or check with the Alaska Safe Routes To School program. The official International Walk (Or Bike) To School Day website also has a lot of information about how to set up an event for your school, including tool kits to help you arrange an event. Even if your kids don’t walk the entire way to school, you can drop them off a mile or so away and walk in with them. Many parents create walking school buses to bring several students who live in the same area to school together in one group.

Boys Run: I Toowú Klatseen program recruiting coaches, young runners for Fall 2019 season

The Boys Run: I toowú klatseen program is recruiting boys in third through fifth grade for its Fall 2019 season. The program also is looking for male and female coaches to help teach the young boys how to be good runners and better men.

The Boys Run: I toowú klatseen program, which means “strengthen your spirit”, is a mentorship program for young boys coordinated by Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV), with similar programs in Sitka, Juneau, and Kake. The program teaches boys healthy social and emotional skills through running and envisions boys growing up into healthy members of society. It is modeled after the Girls On The Run program, which meets in the spring.

The registration period for young boys ends on Friday, Sept. 13. Parents can register their boys at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, or they can register online at https://boysrun.org/register-a-boy.

Southeast Alaska Native cultural values have been intentionally incorporated into the program in each lesson, and we use running as a vehicle for games and fun activities. The 10-week program ends with a community five-kilometer fun run, teaching boys they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.
What coaching entails:

  • Practices are held twice a week from 2:15-4:30 p.m., on either Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday, at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. It starts near the end of September and goes until mid December.
  • There is a mandatory coach training from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, and coaching applications are due by Monday, Sept. 9..
  • You do not have to be a runner to coach.
  • There is a set curriculum and lesson plans and all the supplies you need will be provided for you.

If you are interested in coaching, please contact Samantha “Sam” O’Brien of SAFV at sobrien@safv.org or call 747-3489. If you are interested in registering a boy, contact Sam or ask for Mrs. Twaddle at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School.

25th annual Running of the Boots raises funds for Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka

It’s time to dig your XtraTufs out of the closet and paint them up. The 25th annual Running of the Boots begins at 11:30 a.m. (registration opens at 10:30 a.m.) on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the big tent near Totem Square park on Lincoln Street. For the second straight year, the costumed fun run fundraiser benefits two local nonprofit organizations — the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka. (Note, times are tentative, so watch for updates.)

This year, there will be more food, music and other tents staged near the start of the Running of the Boots, so it will have a more festive atmosphere. This change allows the race to be a bigger part of the Season’s-End Celebration festivities hosted downtown by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Line Association. In addition to the Running of the Boots, the Season’s-End Celebration includes a lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for Sitka residents featuring hamburgers and hot dogs. People are asked to make a $2 donation when they get their lunch, and the money raised will go toward the Sitka’s Cloud teen center project from the 2018 Sitka Health Summit that is being coordinated by Youth Advocates of Sitka.

“We’re happy to share this event with Youth Advocates of Sitka again this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “The Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted this event for more than a decade, but the last couple of years we weren’t sure if we had enough board members in town to keep the event going. We needed some help. It’s a great event, and I’m happy Youth Advocates of Sitka decided to partner with us again to keep it around for a 25th year. We wanted to honor the kid-friendly aspect of the event, and Youth Advocates of Sitka serves that role, as well as operating a youth-run food business (the Smoothie Truck) during the summer.”

“Youth Advocates of Sitka is proud to be involved with the Sitka tradition, Running of the Boots,” Youth Advocates of Sitka executive director Charlie Woodcock said. “Our vision is to empower youth to grow into healthy, happy, and productive members of our community. What a wonderful opportunity for us to support our youth and community with a fun and original celebration!”

So what is the Running of the Boots? It’s Southeast Alaska’s answer to Spain’s “Running of the Bulls.” Sitkans wear zany costumes and XtraTufs — Southeast Alaska’s distinctive rubber boots (aka, Sitka Sneakers). For the past decade, the Running of the Boots raised funds for the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit organization that hosts the Sitka Farmers Market and advocates for community gardens, a community greenhouse, sustainable uses of traditional subsistence foods and education for Sitka gardeners. The event also will raise funds for Youth Advocates of Sitka, which provides a variety of mental and behavioral services for youth and their families in Sitka, including the Sitka Cloud teen center that recently opened on Harbor Drive next to Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop.

The Running of the Boots is a short race built for fun and not for speed, even though one of the many prize categories is for the fastest boots. Other prize categories include best-dressed boots, zaniest costume, best couple, best kids group and more. The course starts at Totem Square park, and runners will run from one end of Lincoln Street to the other and back to Totem Square park (or, we may just run from Totem Square down Lincoln Street to St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral, where runners will loop around the church and head back to Totem Square). Note, the course is blocked off, so no cars for the kids (and parents) to worry about.

There will be lots of prizes, including some new pairs of XtraTufs. There also is live music, and fun for the entire family. Some of the better costumes in recent years have been worn by adults.

The entry fee for the Running of the Boots is $10 per person and $30 per family, and people can register for the race starting at 10:30 a.m. Costume judging starts about 11 a.m., and runners hit the streets at 11:30 a.m. (NOTE: these times are tentative and may be changed).

As usual, local merchants have donated bushels of prizes for the costume contest. The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a farm stand booth with fresh veggies for sale from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. The booth takes debit cards, WIC vouchers and Alaska Quest (SNAP) electronic benefit cards. The Smoothie Truck also will be at the event.

To learn more about the Running of the Boots, contact Charles Bingham of the Sitka Local Foods Network at 623-7660 or by email at charleswbingham3@gmail.com, or contact Charlie Woodcock of Youth Advocates of Sitka at 747-2910 or by email at charlie.woodcock@sitkayouth.org. We also need several volunteers to help set up and take down the race (at least two needed) and to judge the costumes (two needed). Contact Charles Bingham, Charlie Woodcock or Sydney Carter of YAS (747-2848 or sydney.carter@sitkayouth.org) to learn how to volunteer.

Historical information about the race (through 2005) can be found online at http://www.runningoftheboots.org/. Info about the Sitka Local Foods Network and more recent Running of the Boots events (2008-18) is online at http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ (type ‘Running of the Boots’ into the search bar near the top of the page). Click this link to see a slideshow of scenes from the 2018 Running of the Boots.

Also, don’t forget to like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork and follow our Twitter page at https://www.twitter.com/SitkaLocalFoods (@SitkaLocalFoods) to stay updated on Sitka Local Foods Network activities. The Youth Advocates of Sitka page on Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/sitkayouth.

Hames Center announces new season of Senior Walking Hours program starting Sept. 3

Seniors, now you can walk your way to better health and connect with friends with the next season of senior walking hours.

Join us from 10-11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the Hames Center for the Senior Walking Hours program, which is designed for seniors to make new friends and meet their fitness goals. This program originally launched in April 2016 and has been held annually in the fall since then. Having an indoor walking place for seniors helps prevents falls on the ice as we head toward winter.

Led by trained Hames Center instructors, this program is donation-based and open to all seniors, caregivers, and those with specialized walking needs. The Hames Center gym is handicap-accessible, so people who need to use wheelchairs, canes, and other assistive devices are welcome. Pedometers are available to track your progress while you gain strength and balance.

For more information, call 747-5080 or visit http://www.hamescenter.org/

Sitka Sound Science Center hosts guided tide pool walks in early July

Join a Sitka Sound Science Center interpreter for a morning of intertidal exploration during three guided tide pool walks in early June. The walks begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 4; at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, July 5; and at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 6. The times vary each day because of the tides.

Participants will meet at the science center for a brief overview of the intertidal zone and what we can expect to see on the beach, as well as a beach etiquette talk. After that, we will head out to the beach adjacent to the Science Center for our beach walk.

The cost is $10, and includes all day admission to the aquarium and salmon hatchery. For more information, contact SSSC aquarium outreach manager Sandy McClung at 747-8878, Ext. 16, or smcclung@sitkascience.org.

Sitka Cancer Survivors Society to host celebration walk July 14 at Path of Hope park

The Sitka Cancer Survivors Society is planning a celebration event from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, July 14, in honor of cancer survivors and their families.

The society invites all those interested in joining them in walking through the “Path of Hope” park, celebrating with cancer survivors, their families and friends.

Come meet the board members to find out what we are all about, how we got started, and what we do to help support all those dealing with cancer. Refreshments will be served by the Sitka Emblem Club  No. 142. Come and enjoy the beautiful park, and celebrate with fellow cancer survivors and their families.

The Path of Hope Inspirational Park is located on Moller Drive, behind Sitka Community Hospital and behind the running track at Moller Field.

The Sitka Cancer Survivors Society provides support for Sitka residents undergoing cancer treatment, and survivors of cancer. Any questions, please contact Carolyn Fredrickson at 623-7028.

• 2013 SCSS Path of Hope Brochure