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This group is made for walking

May 04, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Karate kids Jeffrey Wolfe, Landon Grove and Adam Simons traded their Tae Kwon Do gear for walking shoes on Saturday to help fight birth defects and reduce infant mortality rates.

The Smithsburg youngsters joined about 20 other students and instructors from Allstar Kicks Karate in Hagerstown during the 32nd annual WalkAmerica event that raised about $70,000 for the March of Dimes.

An "awesome" number of walkers - about 600 - registered for the six-kilometer trek through the city, said Melissa Clark, the organization's community director for Washington and Frederick counties.

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"Every year I'm more amazed at the participation," she said.

Proceeds from Saturday's walk topped last year's earnings by about $19,000, and well exceeded the $60,000 goal for 2003, Clark said.

Jeffrey, 11, and Landon and Adam, both 8, were among hundreds of walkers who gathered in the parking lot of the Long Meadow Shopping Center prior to the event's 9 a.m. start time. The walkers sipped water and coffee, chatted, crossed their hearts and raised their eyes to a U.S. flag hanging high from a Hagerstown Fire Department ladder truck during the national anthem.

Then they were off.

Walkers followed a nearly four-mile route that took them south along Potomac Street, west on Franklin Street, south on Walnut Street, around City Park on Highland Way, north on Virginia Avenue to Memorial Boulevard, east to Frederick Street, north on Locust Street, west on Fairground Avenue and north on Potomac Street again to the shopping center.

Water stations were set up at six locations along the route.

Employees of the Washington County Health System and Citicorp Credit Services - which boasted more than 300 walk participants who raised about $17,000 for the cause - manned the halfway rest area in Hagerstown's City Park.

"We've got hydration and energy here," said Citicorp worker Karen Felix, who helped hand out water and candy to walkers-by.

Felix and her co-workers cheered as their boss, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Michael DiSciullo, jogged up to the stop with his 13-year-old daughter, Beth, and her friend, Jillian Winkler, also 13.

"The team is just fantastic - and we're going to have more next year," DiSciullo said.

Good Humor-Breyers employee James Reed carried his own water bottle past the station. He walks every year "for the babies," he said.

Staples Distribution Center worker Jeff Chaney gave encouragement to co-worker Travis Murray, who was a bit winded at the halfway point.

"I'll carry you, Travis," Chaney joked.

Christina Peterson, 13, joined the Weagley siblings - Lance, 17, Rebecca, 16, and Rachel, 14 - for the walk. But while her friends strolled by the water station, Christina cartwheeled past.

Community Rescue Service volunteers manned bicycles and an ambulance along the route, while one CRS paid worker circled the route in a vehicle to help ensure the safety of walkers, CRS Chief Chris Amos said.

Emergency workers had provided medical attention to one walk participant as of 10 a.m., he said.

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