WalkSafe (an evidence-based pediatric pedestrian injury prevention program) was developed at the KiDZ Neuroscience Center at the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine as a countermeasure to the high number of children injured as pedestrians. Each year the WalkSafe program selects one school to host our Annual Walk to School Day Event. This year we were fortunate to celebrate with two schools, Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass Elementary, where we educated hundreds of students in Miami’s historic Overtown about pedestrian safety in preparation for International Walk to School Day on October 7, 2015.
Walk to School Day is a great encouragement event, which brings together schools, communities, and key stakeholders to celebrate the importance of pedestrian safety and physical activity. This year, these two schools welcomed dozens of community leaders, City of Miami Police Department, City of Miami Fire Rescue and our favorite Miami mascots: Burnie from the Miami HEAT, Billy the Marlin, McGruff the Crime Dog, Sparky the Fire Dog, and Sebastian the Ibis cheered alongside children, as the Booker T. Washington High School band led the parade around the school’s perimeter.
The principal of Phillis Wheatley Elementary, Mrs. Cathy Williams was grateful that her school was selected to host this year’s Walk to School Day Event. “We are blessed for this partnership so students understand the importance of walking safely to school and the model of look left, look right, and look left again.”
Co-hosting the event was Frederick Douglass Elementary, who were equally as excited to implement the WalkSafe program and participate in the celebration. “We are so excited to have the International Walk to School Day at our school because most of our students walk to school by themselves or with their parents” stated principal of Frederick Douglass Elementary, Ms. Yolanda Ellis.
The event was well supported by special guests, including Carlos Sarmiento of the Florida Department of Transportation, Chief Financial Officer of Miami-Dade County Public Schools Judith Marte, as well as representatives from the Miami-Dade County School Board, South Florida Commuter Services, Metropolitan Planning Organization and Miami-Dade School Police Department.
Our lasting collaboration with community partners has allowed the WalkSafe program to continue to educate the community and share the program missions to 1) decrease the number of children injured as pedestrians, 2) increase physical activity levels, and 3) encourage the use of walkable environments. The Director of the KiDZ Neuroscience Center and WalkSafe/BikeSafe Programs, Dr. Gillian Hotz started the program in order to decrease the number of children getting hit by cars in Miami-Dade County, “Here in Miami-Dade County, we have had a significant impact, reflected by the 60% decrease in the number of children ages 5-14 injured as pedestrians, since the program’s mandate to all public elementary schools and K-8 centers in 2003”.
The KiDZ Neuroscience Center is excited to educate the community, decrease the number of children injured and encourage physical activity so students can walk safe, bike safe and be safe.