ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Julianne Sheehan, left, and Jaycob Bardgett get ahead on the second annual Winter Walk Day.
By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
NAHANT — Wednesday morning’s snow and cold weather didn’t freeze plans for students at the Johnson Elementary School.
More than 115 students walked to school for the second annual Winter Walk Day, a program of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School initiative.
The program is intended to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion near educational facilities, while increasing the health, safety and physical activity of elementary and middle school students.
About 83 percent of Nahant students participated. They were motivated by an extra incentive — the Golden Shoe Trophy.
Parent Patty Ryan Sheehan used a size 14 sneaker and attached it to an old trophy. She spray-painted it gold and offered it to the grade level with the most walkers.
The all-mighty award was enough to get Matthew Conant, 8, on his feet. The second-grader called the event fun and hoped to get his hands on the trophy.
“We don’t normally get to walk, it’s a longer walk from Little Nahant,” said Roxanne Schena, who accompanied her two daughters. “Principal (Kevin) Andrews is all about getting involved with things like this and we’re happy to do it. We walk in the spring, but it’s nice to get out and walk during the winter.”
Schena and a group of about 12 children and their parents met at the Short Beach parking lot at 7:30 to set out together. Similarly, groups met on Valley Road and other nearby locations.
Ashley Shenock, a second-grader, said she and her friends met at her grandmother’s house near the school.
“The fresh air wakes me up,” said fourth-grader Victoria Newbury.
Safe Routes outreach coordinator Timothy Pettus said a survey found that about 40 percent of students typically walk to school. Shoemaker Elementary School and Sewell-Anderson Elementary School in Lynn also both participated in the Winter Walk.
Fifth- and sixth-graders created a chart to help tally the amount of walkers in each grade level.
“We had excellent participation,” Andrews said.
Kindergarten and fifth grade tied with 17 out of 18 students; Third grade and sixth grade each had 13 out of 14 students participate.
The Golden Shoe will rotate classrooms so each winning grade has a turn with it, Andrews said.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.