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Kansas City mental health clients walk the walk

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Could you walk an average of seven miles each day for three months straight?

That’s what you’d need to do to keep up with Ed Rogers, who was one of the peak perambulators in the 50 Million Step Challenge organized by the Metropolitan Council of Community Mental Health Centers, which includes seven agencies.

Rogers was on hand Friday at the Linwood Family YMCA in Kansas City, Mo., for the closing celebration of the challenge, which aims to encourage physical fitness among clients at the mental health centers.

The challenge ran from Aug. 1 through Nov. 1, and the mental health center teams collectively exceeded the overall goal by logging 58.4 million steps. (Organizers say that 2,000 steps equal one mile.)

Rogers is a client at Wyandot Center in Kansas City, Kan., and he got to say a few words from the podium as the leading leg man for his team.

“I didn’t look at it as a challenge,” he said. “I looked at it as a motivation. It got me out doing something different besides what I was normally doing – you know, just being depressed and lonely – so this motivated me to take the next step in life.”

The council organized its first walking challenge five years ago with a goal of 10 million steps; participants achieved that total six times over.

The challenge took a brief hiatus, but the council brought it back this year due to popular demand from clients and staff. Organizers now hope to stage it every other year.

With the help of client Eugene McQueen, who led all walkers with 2.4 million steps, Truman Medical Centers Behavioral Health came out on top with 16.9 million steps.

McQueen said he appreciated winning gift cards for his achievement but there really was nothing to it because he paces a lot.

“It’s just amazing I would win so much for doing something I find so leisurely,” he said.

Ron Tankel, a therapeutic recreational specialist at TMC Behavioral Health, coordinated the Truman team.

Tankel said it was good to see clients incorporating walking into their everyday routine. The clients were so enthusiastic, he said, that they threw down the gauntlet to staff and administrators at TMC Behavioral Health to start an internal competition before the next official challenge.

“They don’t want to wait two years,” he said.

Lazaro Dixon, who was tops with his dogs at ReDiscover, which had teams from its locations in Lee’s Summit and Grandview, cautioned his compatriots to take it easy because he had two seizures during the challenge from overexertion.

“Watch what you are doing and be careful about what you are doing,” he said. “And I loved that I walked – and maybe I got a little slimmer too.”

Mike Sherry is a health reporter with Heartland Health Monitor, a reporting collaboration among KCUR Public Radio, KCPT Public Television, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio.

Major Funding for Health coverage on KCPT provided by Assurant Employee Benefits and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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