The Outer Banks Hospital recently partnered with Vidant Health, headquartered in Greenville, The Town of Nags Head and Nags Head Elementary School to host a “Safe Routes to School Camp” for rising 5th Grade students. Fourteen campers from Dare County Schools participated in the week-long camp at Nags Head Elementary School (NHES). The goal of the camp was to teach students the numerous benefits of healthy eating, walking or riding their bicycles safely to school and to learn about Town planning.  By the end of the camp, the students had developed a Safe Routes To School plan for NHES recommendations for the Town of Nags Head to make the area around the school safer for bicyclists and pedestrians

“We are pleased to be on the cutting edge in advancing initiatives that promote physical activity among children and families,” said Ronnie Sloan, Hospital President.  “Before the summer recess, we partnered to provide bike helmets to all 3rd graders at Nags Head Elementary.  This is the next step in encouraging safer walking and biking to school.”

The Safe Routes to School Camp was co-sponsored by Vidant Health as part of their focus on creating healthier communities. Vidant Health is committed to partnering with eastern North Carolina communities to create healthier environments that promote healthy lifestyles. 

“Leading a healthy lifestyle is one of the most effective ways to prevent diseases, and at Vidant Health, we believe preventing disease is just as important as treating it,” said Melissa Roupe, administrator for the Childhood Obesity Program at Vidant Health.  “We are excited to engage our youth in helping us design and implement a Safe Routes to School program that will foster exercise for all NHES students beginning with this school year.”

Local students worked with the Town of Nags Head’s Planning Department to seek out safe routes for children to walk or ride their bicycles to school. The students learned what constitutes a safe route and also offered the Town valuable suggestions on improving roadways, amenities, pedestrian cross walks and lighting.  The campers learned how to approach intersections, where to cross streets safely and how to dress to be most visible to motorists. The Town of Nags Head’s Police Department provided bicycle safety instruction and led students on bicycles for several routes.

According to Elizabeth Teague, planning director, “The SRTS Camp was a great opportunity for our Town to involve young people in Town decision-making.  Recommendations from the campers will be presented to our Board, and planning staff got student input on sidewalks, crosswalks and playground needs.  It also brought together a wonderful coalition of community partners.  We are very grateful to the school, the hospital, and the local businesses, especially Ocean Atlantic Rentals, Kelly’s Restaurant and the Surfin’ Spoon, for supporting Town efforts to promote traffic safety and planning.”

The students demonstrated the knowledge they absorbed all week by creating their very own brochure during the camp. The brochure includes routes they mapped out with The Town of Nags Head, tips for walking to school safely and photos of the campers. The students are excited to plan their own Safe Routes to School event on Oct. 3 on National Walk to School Day (see http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/).

In addition, the fun, hands-on camp scheduled numerous field trips. The students enjoyed lunch at Kelly’s Restaurant with Bob Oakes, the Mayor of Nags Head, and Ronnie Sloan, FACHE, president of The Outer Banks Hospital. In addition, swimming at The YMCA and a bike ride to The Surfin’ Spoon for some frozen yogurt rounded out the week’s events. On the final day of camp, the students hosted their family members to a healthy lunch and entertaining presentation.  This fall, the students hope to take their show on the road and present to The Town of Nags Head and the Dare County Commissioners to promote healthy, safe routes to pedestrian-friendly schools.