For the past 10 years a chirpy walking group has pounded the pavement or bush trails of the Milton-Ulladulla district reaping the holistic benefits of exercise.
On Tuesday, February 19, about 50 members of The Heart Foundation’s Happy Feet Walkers celebrated the group’s 10th birthday with a party at Lions Park, Burrill Lake.
The group was started by The Heart Foundation and was previously organised by Rhonda Lyons. Organisers Tony and Dorothy Gerzanics assumed responsibility of the group about eight years ago after Ms Lyons moved.
“It was close to folding unless somebody took over, and somebody who shall remain nameless, put her hand up,” Tony said while looking at Dorothy.
Each weekday, members, whose average age would “be near enough for 70”, meet about 7.50am at various spots in the district. Some of the popular walks include Narrawallee, Millards Creek, Rennies Beach to Racecourse Beach and the lighthouse walks, Tony said.
But every walk has a different option. Some can do half a trek, or stick to paved walkways if they prefer. Age and fitness level is no barrier.
“We have to cater to people that like to pound the pavement and people that would like to go strop, so we try and mix it up to make sure everybody gets a fair go.”
Since its inception the group has grown from about 15 members to 100 registered walkers, Dorothy said.
Happy Feet clocks up more than 1000 kilometres a year and the group has reached the 10,000 kilometre mark. Six members have chalked up 1000 walks, including Gale Vincent, who was the latest to reach the mark.
“We all walk, we all talk, but anyone here knows we’re like a big family. If you want something, someone will help you,” Dorothy said.
While there were obvious physical health benefits to regular activity, Tony and Dorothy agreed social benefits outweighed the exercise.
Couples, a French language class and regular bowling or golfing groups have formed from new friendships at Happy Feet.
“A lot of these are people that have moved to the area in the last 10 years or thereabout. So they come into a new area, they don’t know anyone there, and they come to us,” Tony said.
“Then they go to us and get into a circle of friends, ‘Oh you play golf? I’ll play golf with you’ or bowls, or whatever they might do.”
A subtle marketing move by Dorothy – including Tony’s name in the Times listing – has also encouraged more men to join.
“Usually men are less likely to join up where they don’t know what or who they're going to, or what they’re doing. Their friends are generally in the workplace, then when they retire and move somewhere else they’ve got no friends.”
Details of the weekly walk program are available every week in the Times or by contacting Tony or Dorothy on 4455 6162 or 0477 463 270.