The community won.
Nearly 100 community members participated in the Walk & Win program offered by the Montana State University Extension Office in Hamilton for the past two months. The program used walking routes and a challenge program with prizes developed by MSU nursing students interning with Katelyn Andersen, MSU Extension Agent.
On Thursday, the Bitterroot Public Library hosted “Walkabout Hamilton,” an evening walk exploring River Park and ending with hard cider from Backroad Cider, organic snacks from Homestead Organics and the announcement of Walk & Win winners by Andersen.
Nansu Roddy, Adult Services librarian, said the collaboration between these programs is intentional.
“We want to be local and support local,” Roddy said. “All our summer programs at the library are about creating partnerships with local entities.”
Val Phillips of Backroad Cider, at 98 Marcus St. in Hamilton, explained his production process of gathering fruit, fermenting it and allowing it to mature.
“I mix it, carbonate it and send it out the door,” he said.
Phillips said Backroad Cider has hundreds of flavors - most with an alcohol content of 6.3. He brought six different cider flavors, huckleberry ice team and root beer for the group to taste on Thursday.
Laura Garber, owner of Homestead Organics, provided locally processed chicken, kale salad, kimchi, coleslaw from freshly harvested cabbage and chocolate cake made with kamut flour.
“Together we are stronger as a community,” she said. “The only way that we are going to improve our life is to work together, in my opinion. Food is a great way to know each other because eating is the one thing for sure we all do.”
Garber explained how the Loyal to Local Cooperative works and encouraged buying local to support small business agriculture efforts.
“You supporting the farmer means a lot,” Garber said. “To me it means I have a personal connection with you and can share my joy of growing. I can know that what I am doing has a meaning for my community. I appreciate it when you support other farmers as well.”
Homestead Organics Farm is located at 175 Skalkaho Hwy in Hamilton.
Andersen explained the objectives of the Extension office and the goals of the walking program. Participants took an online survey after completing each walk.
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“We created the program to engage the community and the community really responded,” she said. “The feedback of 92 participants who completed 490 routes confirms that if you are having a bad day, take a walk.”
Participant ages were 4 percent between 18 and 26; 32 percent between 27 and 39; 41 percent between 40 and 65; and 23 percent were older than 66.
Survey results show 68 percent increased their physical activity, 41 percent maintained weight, 13 percent lost weight, 34 percent have improved stamina for everyday activities, 15 percent experienced improved balance and 70 percent experienced mental health and mood.
The most popular walking route number four near River Park and Rocky Mountain Laboratories.
Improved health was the best incentive for participating, but the prizes - provided by local business - could have been a motivating factor.
Prizes and winners were decided with a double random process.
Bitterroot Aquatic Center donated a seasons pass ($120 value) which was won by Cindi Petrusaitus; Bitterroot Aquatic Center - a month pass ($40 value) - Cathy Jex; Chapter One Book Store – assorted book basket - Adam Kraft; Ford’s Department Store - $50 toward a pair of running shoes - Clayton Ashcraft; Iron Horse Athletic Club – a month pass - Kevin O’Brien; Loyal to Local Bitterroot - CSA Share fruits and vegetable weekly box for 20 weeks ($385 value) - Woody Jones; PayneWest Insurance - FitBit Charge ($150 value) - Roy Grant; Ravalli County Fairgrounds - Family Fair Pack (daily admission for two adults and two kids plus two carnival passes) - Mary Kay Jacobson; Wild About Pets – two Dog Lovers Goodie Basket - Helene Musante and Val DeMuro; and the grand prize donated by Valley Bicycles and Ski of a Giant Hybrid Bicycle ($435 value) was won by Julia Wochos.
The Extension office plans to create a Walking Map of Stevensville this fall and have the 2018 Walk & Win! program with both Hamilton and Stevensville routes.
Due to the positive community response they may create an opportunity before next spring to win prizes.
Becky Lovejoy, a participant in Walk & Win, said the program inspired her.
“I was an active person who really appreciated the structure and the focus,” Lovejoy said. “I gave maps to my friends and tried to get them to walk with me.”
Lovejoy said she started walking the routes, then upped her game. She began running and is now preparing for triathlon competition.
“It was a way for me to find neighborhoods I’ve never been in before,” she said. “It is a really good program.”
The Hamilton walking map will continue to be available online at msuextension.org/ravalli/walking.
The Bitterroot Public Library has a walking group, 8 to 9 a.m. every Monday and Thursday from July 3-Aug. 31. To explore Hamilton and meet other people, meet at the library gazebo.