May 9, 2012 // Local

New Haven wellness walk/run offers benefits

NEW HAVEN — When riding home from school one day with his grandmother, St. John the Baptist, New Haven, seventh-grader Tyler Roth passed by a young boy in a wheelchair. He commented that he felt everyone should have to experience what it was like to be in a wheelchair.

Roth’s grandmother detailed that the youngster has always had a tender heart and soft spot for those with special needs, “Tyler has been a very empathetic, caring person since he was a little boy.”

She retold the story to her exercise class, and a mother — Julie Lebamoff, with a special needs son — suggested Kerri Zurbuch become involved. The rest is history and during the first week of June at New Haven Canal Days the first annual Wellness 4 Everyone (W4E) Walk/Run will take place.

Zurbuch has spearheaded the event and is expecting well over 300 participants. The mother of three boys is a member at St. John, New Haven, and the Raider Wellness Team Leader. She is the founder and president of Well Strategies, Inc. Zurbuch holds a masters degree in wellness management and has been a health and fitness expert for nearly 20 years.

According to Zurbuch, several things converged leading up to the birth of this event including: Roth’s passion for the disabled, the community interest at large, the declining health of our nation, the Women, Infant, Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act of 2004, and the strong potential for a decreased life expectancy in our younger generations.

Zurbuch explained, “First, our community has been looking for something positive that is social, beneficial, personal, yet not threatening — but occurring annually. So Well Strategies collaborated with New Haven Parks and Recreation, New Haven High School track and field, St. John the Baptist, New Haven, Catholic School and New Haven Canal Days Festival Committee to bring this event to benefit the community at large.

Secondly, the Federal WIC re-authorization of 2004 required all schools throughout the U.S. to have a wellness policy in place by July of 2007. Schools who receive subsidy for lunches are required to hold this policy. The kicker is, it is a non-funded federal mandate.”

In order to implement some parts of the wellness policy, funds are required. Therefore, Zurbuch has designed a means for the schools so that this event will secure those funds by profiting from the pledges, meal fees and T-shirt sales. Five schools are on board to participate including St. John, New Haven and St. Louis Academy-Besancon, New Haven, with several other schools a possibility. Each school can be assured of earning at least $1,000.

This event will have three races and will be unique in nature, unlike any other event of its kind, because it is both for the able and disabled. Combining the two allows everyone to share in the thrill and experience of being a participant.

Accommodating those with wheelchairs, there will be support buddies to assist with pushing, walking beside, running with or just an extra set of eyes. “Everyone is a winner in the one-mile walk and the 5K 4 Wellness,” Zurbuch stressed. “The 5K competitive race will be run for those die hard able or disabled that need a challenge, but do not need assistance,” she added. Zurbuch’s motto and message to all is “Do your best, do it 4 Wellness!”

To secure a partner for the disabled in wheelchairs, call Julie at (260) 437-2670. To sign yourself or your school up for the event or for any further questions, Zurbuch can be reached at [email protected].

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