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Walks combine activity, local community issues

A half-dozen walks will give Rogue Valley residents a chance not only to get some exercise, but also to learn about issues facing local people and communities.

A series called Humanity Walking will offer six public walks and companion events that explore the place of walking in culture, religion, sociology and literature, said Michele Morales, addictions manager for Jackson County Health and Human Services.

Each of the treks will cover loops of between 3 and 6 miles at various sites in Jackson County. Each is free and open to all ages, she said.

Funded by a $7,500 grant from the Oregon Humanities Foundation and co-sponsored by United Way of Jackson County, the walks are intended to expose different sectors of the community to ideas and provide a format to engage those ideas, all the while participating in healthy activities, said Dee Anne Everson, director of United Way of Jackson County.

"Our Humanity Walking program is an opportunity to participate in community while doing something healthy for the whole family," Everson said.

The first walk in the series is a morning "Walk for Health." Specifically directed toward seniors, the kick-off walk has been tentatively set for April at the Rogue Valley Mall. Morales said the mall "is a secret recreation center in the Rogue Valley, visited by many people every morning to get exercise in a safe, well-lit and warm environment," Morales said.

"For our area, it is one of the places where seniors can go to stay healthy and be safe that is free," she said, adding she encourages people to bring their grandparents, grandchildren and "friends of every age."

The second walk, slated for May, is titled "Walk for Success." The walk will begin at a Medford elementary school, wind its way to a middle school, on to a high school and end up at the SOU/RCC Higher Education Center, where nationally renowned hip-hop poet Claudia Alick will perform poetry and music about "finding your paths and going for your dreams," followed by an open-mic segment, Morales said.

June will feature a "Walk of Faith," she said. The walk will go from a Buddhist temple to a Christian church and to a Jewish synagogue. Religious leaders will talk about the place of walking in faith traditions. Martha Hutchison will discuss walking the sacred "Camino de Santiago" last summer as a "pilgrim," and other kinds of walking meditation, Morales said.

Veterans will be honored in July's "Warriors Walk" in White City, which will include a film at Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics on four Iraqi veterans who lost limbs in the war and then went on to become world-class athletes through the Paralympic Games. A panel will talk about challenges veterans face and how to support them. The walk will circle the Veterans Affairs campus, with time for walking the campus labyrinth, Morales said.

White City will also host a "Walk for Opportunity" in August, she said.

"This is about immigration, and walking to find work," Morales said, adding youths from the LIFE Art program will set up stations to tell stories of historical, familial and personal immigration experiences through their art, poetry, photography and readings.

The sixth and final walk in the series is September's "Walk for Recovery," which will take place in Medford, Morales said.

The event will be part of National Recovery month. New York writer Joshua Ferris will read from his novel, "The Unnamed," which details the story of a man with an addiction to walking.

"The story is a powerful tale of losing everything to a compulsive behavior, including job, family, friendship and ultimately, life," Morales said.

The walk will pass by the agencies that touch the lives of individuals seeking recovery, "including the courts, child welfare, treatment centers and churches that host meetings," Morales said.

Morales said volunteers are welcome to help organize and coordinate the walks.

"We're all hard at work trying to pull it all together."

For more information or to volunteer, call Morales at 541-774-7807 or email MoraleME@jacksoncounty.org.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.