Now we are park people

November 8, 2019

Clemence Marcastel

After a second wonderful season, we had a celebration to recognize the efforts of  Manulife Walk in the Park program walk leaders. Walk leaders rallied their communities together for weekly walks in neighbourhood parks. They were the key to the program’s success.

Manulife Walk in the Park provides training and support to help establish community-led walking groups for seniors across Toronto. These groups help seniors get fit while helping build connections with nature and with other community members. This year, the program has brought together 263 people who hosted 1115 walks in parks across the city. The program was generously supported by Manulife.

In addition, getting people walking, this program helped build powerful social connections, tackling both physical and mental wellbeing.

One walker shared “Walking makes me feel comfortable and happy. I also made more friends, I like this activity. I will continue to walk regularly.”

During the celebration in glorious High Park, Walk Leaders shared their feelings about the program. Here’s some of what they told us.

Jaye, Velma and Barbara from Stan Wadlow Park Walkers

“Walking in the park is a fantastic way to break the ice,” said Jaye. “Stan Wadlow Park, our park, has something for everyone with a spectacular topography. We walk every Wednesday of the year. The park staff know about us and they have a calendar of all of our walks to help anyone want to join us. We will wait for you next Wednesday in front of Stan Wadlow Park Clubhouse to walk in the park with us.”

Wendy, Allan and John from the Friends of Guild Park

“We had great seniors turn out during our walks” explains John Mason who heads up Friends of Guild Park. “Guild Park, our park, is unique in Toronto and in the world: it is where nature meets the arts. During the walks, we opened everyone’s eyes to the park, even if they’d already been their park before. People were smiling. They enjoyed the walks. We even saw a deer! Another highlight for the seniors having a sense of safety in the park: we feel safe walking in the park as a group.”

Josephine and Cita from Waterfront Optimistic Walkers (WOW)

“We had so many people joining us on our walks, and we walked everywhere in Toronto. Everyone is welcome to come with us.
We particularly loved walking in Steep Park, there are so many washrooms there!” Cita – WOW Walkers

Lynne, Grace & Ras from Rustin Oree Walkers

“Esther Lorrie Park has a secret admirer who decorates the park for each season. We haven’t caught him yet, but we love him! Our park is the perfect place to be if you are interested to walk for your health: paved, shaded, and full of nature. Our group, the Rustin Oree Walkers, walk three times a week. Our best memory: spotting a deer and its baby during one of our walks”.

Jo-Anne, Margareth & Sandra from ISSRA (Ismalic Social Services & Resources Association) Walking Club

“You know Neil Sedaka song, Laughter in the rain? Every time we invite someone to join our walks we sing the lyric “Walking hand in hand with the one I love.”Our walking group is very diverse travels from everywhere to join our walks. Before joining us, they all had misconceptions about the west-end (we are at St-Clair and Runnymede), but now that they walk with us, they know it is safe and beautiful.”

Isabel from Seniors on the Go

“I never saw our park, Chalkfarm Park, before. No one from our community group knew about the park before the walks. It is small but beautiful.
We had a lot of fun walking together and I learned much more about my friends and their lives during those walks. Among my best memories of those days: on one rainy day I forgot my umbrella and used a big leaf instead.
But the best outcome of our walking program was having members of the Vietnamese community join one of our walks. After walking with them, I joined their Tai-Chi program. We bonded over walking in the park.”

Fatima, Mainul, Nadira, Rabiul, Shah & Shawkat from Dentonia & Prairie Drive Parks Walking Groups

“Before Park People, we were inside people. After meeting with them, we went outside. Now, we are park people.”
Beyond walking, we are also organizing workshops to talk about climate change to encourage our community to take care of the environment and fight climate change.”

A few more pictures from our walk leaders celebration in High Park 
A few pictures from ISSRA last walk in High Park on October 8, 2019

Thank you to all the walk leaders who encouraged their community members to get more active and helped strangers become friends.  

A very special thank you for the generous support of Manulife, who made the Manulife Walk in the Park program possible. 

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