Off to work he goes and goes

September 02, 2004 12:00 am
Jerry Nickell walked 14 miles to work at St. Elizabeth Health Services as part of "Leave Your Car at Home" month, a project of Health in Action! (Baker City Herald/Lisa Britton).
Jerry Nickell walked 14 miles to work at St. Elizabeth Health Services as part of "Leave Your Car at Home" month, a project of Health in Action! (Baker City Herald/Lisa Britton).

By LISA BRITTON

Of the Baker City Herald

Jerry Nickell's commute Wednesday morning was lit by the light of a waning gibbous moon — a welcome sight since he left his house on Highway 7 before dawn.

At 4:32 a.m., to be exact — on foot, 14 miles away from his office at St. Elizabeth Health Services.

"Perfect temperature, gorgeous morning," he said, somewhere around mile 12 at 7 a.m.

He's never done this before.

And, no, he didn't have car trouble.

So why did Nickell, 48, pick Sept. 1 to hoof it to work?

September is "Leave Your Car at Home" month, so dubbed by Health in Action!, a program to promote healthy lifestyles that is funded by Catholic Health Initiatives, the parent company of St. Elizabeth Health Services.

Nickell was one of at least 10 hospital employees to shun their cars on Wednesday morning and walk — or bike — to work.

Those other on-foot commuters included George Winn, Jeff Daniels, Laura Laurence, Bob Borders, Denise Van Artsdalen, Pam Sundean, Betty Kimbell and Cathy Graham. Dr. Barbara Tylka bicycled to work.

This was exactly what Sherrie Kvamme hoped would happen.

Kvamme is the facilitator for Health in Action (HIA), and she wants everyone to add a little motion to their lives.

She doesn't care if you walk or run or bike or roll along in a wheelchair — the point is to cover a little ground.

"I'll do whatever it takes to help you move an inch," she said. "If you move a little bit more than you did yesterday, it counts."

HIA began in January, and the organization has either sponsored an event each month (March was "Go Fly a Kite" month) or partnered with existing events, such as the Health Fair and Oregon Trail Interpretive Center's trail walk.

Kvamme doesn't anticipate that everyone will start hiking to work, but she encourages everyone to at least modify their day to include a little more exercise.

"We want to make people more aware of the fact that they can park their car at the far end of the parking lot, or walk their kids to school," Kvamme said.

Prior to his walking commute, Nickell did a little research on the activity levels of Baker County residents.

He found that 82 percent lead sedentary lives.

"We like to think of ourselves as the rugged, outdoor type," he said. "The body was built to move — that's what Health in Action is all about."

Mark calendars for HIA events

Kvamme hopes every city in Baker County will be "moving" on Saturday, Sept. 18.

In Baker City, the Baker County Historical Society has changed the route of their historical walk to start at the Oregon Trail Regional Museum at 2 p.m.

Virginia Kostol will guide the downtown walking tour. Groups are usually limited to 20 so everyone can hear Kostol's stories of history. If the group exceeds that number, maps will be provided for people who want to take a self-guided tour.

On the same day in Sumpter, the Friends of the Dredge are encouraging everyone to come walk the paths around the state park and share some healthy snacks.

Future events include a "walk and talk" in October with Rep. Greg Walden.

"He's going to discuss health care concerns with anyone who wants to walk and talk with him," Kvamme said. "It's to promote healthy lifestyles in Baker County, it's not political."

That date has yet to be set.

Walking across Oregon

HIA members started tracking the miles they cover to "walk across Oregon" by racking up 442 miles, which is the distance from Ontario to Newport.

Membership to HIA is free. To join, simply contact Kvamme at 541/893-6315 or e-mail her at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Each member receives a monthly newsletter that includes news about HIA, a kids page, a list of local events, features on people around the county and a calendar.

To join in the trek across the state, use the HIA calendar to document how many miles of activity you log each day, then sign your name and mail it to Kvamme at the end of the month. The mailing address is: P.O. Box 1034, Baker City, OR 97814.

HIA is even offering incentives to get people moving. Participants age 13 and older will receive a pedometer after logging 50 miles, and children 12 and under just have to record 25 miles.

Kvamme said they will again start the "walk across Oregon" program in January and continue it through December.

And she is adamant that no one has an excuse to not participate.

"I don't want people to feel this is just for athletes," she said. "There's no excuse for anyone not to be part of Health in Action."

She said she can work with those unable to walk to devise a plan of exercise and calculate activities into mileage.

"No one's going to get out of this," she said with a smile.

Baker County boasts ample opportunities to lace up those sneakers, from strolling beside the Powder River on the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway to traversing the twisty trails around the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

Want to head out of town? Grab your hiking boots and explore trails in the Elkhorns or the Wallowas.

HIA will sponsor a banquet in January 2005 and give out awards to those who have logged 25, 50, 100, 250, 400 and 500 miles.

For more information, contact Kvamme at 541/893-6315.