Muscatine Diabetes Project volunteers with Madison students

Madison students participating in Mileage Club at recess.

MUSCATINE, Iowa—The Muscatine Diabetes Project has always had an active partnership with Muscatine Community School District, offering diabetes education to elementary students. In October of 2019, the group expanded their partnership, presenting a grant to the Madison Elementary School Mileage and Running Clubs. This winter, the Muscatine Diabetes Project stepped up their involvement, coordinating a walking buddies’ program between Madison’s mileage club and local businesses. As this pilot program steps off, the Muscatine Diabetes Project hopes to use it as a model to help other schools get similar programs started.

Madison’s mileage club encourages students to get active during recess by rewarding them for running or walking. For each mile a student goes, he or she receives a colorful shoe charm to place on a lanyard. When Muscatine Diabetes Project Co-Founder Kim Seligman learned about the mileage club from Madison physical education teacher Becky Eserhaut, she saw an excellent opportunity to encourage children to exercise. The Muscatine Diabetes Project initially supported the project by giving Eserhaut a $500 grant, much of which went to purchasing shoe charms and lanyards for participating students.

Wanting to support the program even more, Seligman came up with the idea of getting Muscatine Diabetes Project partners involved with mileage club. To that end, she spoke with Eserhaut and supporters from several nearby businesses about having volunteers serve as walking buddies. Everyone involved welcomed the idea.

Not long after students came back after winter break, volunteers from area businesses began walking and jogging with interested students between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Volunteers visit for half hour increments on days of their choice.

So far, the volunteer program has proved very popular. Seligman shared that she enjoys, “seeing the friendships develop between the volunteers and the students,” as well as the opportunity for people of all ages to enjoy physical activity together. Eserhaut agreed, adding: “I think having the support of the community and having them come to the school and make connections is very positive. For some students, that little bit of extra connection makes a world of difference.”

Currently, Seligman said the Muscatine Diabetes Project plans to send volunteers to walk and jog with students through May 29th of this year and that they intend to send volunteers again next fall too. If the program continues to do well, Seligman and Eserhaut both hope to see it expand to other schools.

“I know there is some interest at other schools,” stated Eserhaut,” who has already taken questions from several other Muscatine physical education teachers about what it takes to start a mileage club. “It would be awesome if all the schools did it,” she added, but stressed having enough volunteers to supervise it plays a crucial role in its success. “Mileage Club couldn’t happen without all the volunteers,” she said.

As for Seligman, she values the opportunity to get more Muscatine Diabetes project supporters involved. “It’s really exciting,” she emphasized, “The kids get exercises, the adults get exercises—it’s a win-win for everybody!”