“Yes, it is hard work and I love it!”, such were the parting words of Robert Breitwieser, media spokesperson and archivist for HEAL (Healthy Eating and Active Living) in Strathmore.
HEAL has been active in Strathmore since 2005. Their first project was to survey the residents of Strathmore regarding the needs and barriers they experienced around healthy eating and active living. Based on this initial research, HEAL has designed, funded and implemented numerous programs which support residents in living healthy active lifestyles.
A big emphasis has been on no-cost exercise such as walking. HEAL has implemented several walking challenges in the community such as Walking to the Olympics in 2010. In 2012 Strathmore participated in the Alberta Health Services Walkability Road show and as a result further developed itself as a walk- friendly city. Trails and pathways have been connected around Strathmore so up to 50 km of trails are available. Residents can get downtown from anywhere in Strathmore using active transportation (not the car!).
Over the years two apps have been developed for use on the trails. One developed by the local high school, The Pathway App provides a map of the trail system and the other, On This Spot indicates points of historical interest. HEAL has supported the development of numerous features to make walking attractive – connected trails, signs, benches lighting, crosswalks where people actually go, timing of the lights across the Trans-Canada highway so walkers have time to get across the road. The Heal Team is confident that given all these changes, Strathmore can truthfully say that it is a Walkable community!
Skating is another no-cost activity that is being encouraged in Strathmore. There are numerous ponds and sloughs in Strathmore which are being cleared by the Town so that they are available for skating. HEAL sponsors a program which gives prizes away (toques and mitts ) when people are caught skating. The Great Skate is one of the activities of Family Day Unplugged including sugar free hot chocolate, soup and hay wagon rides.
In conversation with Robert it was clear that the many and varied ways HEAL has contributed to healthy living in Strathmore are the result of effective partnerships. The core group of HEAL members listens to the community and then reaches out to partners; Not for Profits, businesses, institutions and other citizens with ideas and opportunities as they unfold. Everyone works together in a flurry until the project is completed and then parts company until the next one. Hard work, perhaps, but also an efficient and engaging way of being rooted in, offering leadership to and getting things done in Strathmore .