Moving Starke County Across America Campaign Urges Residents to Get Moving

Nancy Dembowski (middle) presented Anita Goodan (left) and Jerry Curtis (right) with a pedometer to kick off the campaign.
Nancy Dembowski (middle) presented Anita Goodan (left) and Jerry Curtis (right) with a pedometer to kick off the campaign.

A startling statistic in Starke County has incited an initiative to get residents off the couch and moving. Ted Hayes, marketing and media representative for IU Health Starke Hospital, and Nancy Dembowski of Moving Starke County Forward said a statistic released last year listed the health rankings of counties in Indiana and revealed that Starke County came in second-to-last, ranking 91 out of 92 counties for healthiness. As a result of that, the county has received a grant from the Indiana Department of Health to study the issue and find out how to improve health in the county.

The Drug Symposium held earlier this month was one such idea to help address the abuse of methamphetamine and prescription drugs in the county, and now Hayes and Dembowski are pushing a new campaign: “Moving Starke County Across America” aims to get residents active and walking more with a goal of 3000 miles – roughly the same as the distance from the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Hayes said this should be a fun campaign to improve health throughout the county.

“I was really shocked when I saw these statistics that between 20 to 30 percent of all Starke County adult residents get no physical activity each and every day, so that’s actually who we are pointing toward that we want to get off the couch and out and moving, but everybody can help us in our quest to move from the Statue of Liberty to San Francisco,” said Hayes. “We think it’s going to be a fun campaign and, hopefully, once people start walking, they will put in their daily routine.”

The initiative runs between Memorial Day to Labor Day and encourages residents to walk, bike or run every day and keep track of the distance they travel. The campaign kicks off on Saturday at Wythogan Park in Knox at 10 a.m. when people can sign up; alternatively, anyone interested can sign up at the Wellness Department at IU Health Starke Hospital. Dembowski said 250 pedometers are available to be given to participants who sign up to keep track of their walking and running efforts. Sign-ups are also available at the local libraries and can be made out at any time during the campaign.

Dembowski said this effort should make have a big impact on the county’s health ranking.

“Getting people moving will ultimately have an impact on these health statistics that are tracked by the state of Indiana. We can indeed move Starke County from 91st, 88th, or wherever we’re languishing right now, we can move them way up and in the process, we help so many other things in our county when people’s health becomes better,” said Dembowski.

Those who sign up can call Heather Skelly weekly at (574) 772-1272 or email to report their distance, and Dembowski said the effort won’t be strict or monitored – the purpose is just to get people active. Progress can also be reported at the local libraries.

“We’re aiming for 3000 miles. We want all of Starke County to participate. Let’s make this one of the biggest things that Starke County has ever done, and in the process, we’re going to make people in Starke County a whole lot healthier. That’s our goal,” said Dembowski.