New Port Richey Youth Advisory Board members want to do something about childhood obesity and fitness. The free Doggone Fitness Walk is a first step.
From 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday, children ages 14 and younger will walk laps around Orange Lake. Organizers encourage them to bring their dogs to walk along with them.
The event is one of the group's most innovative ideas for a community project, YAB members said. The 15-member group advises the city's parks and recreation department.
For the Doggone Fitness Walk, YAB lined up $744 in grants through United Healthcare and Youth Service America.
ROTC members will issue "dog tags" to walkers before they start. For each lap around the lake, a participant will get a "paw" piece that goes on the dog tag chain.
Along the way, walkers will encounter obstacle courses for kids and dogs. Healthy snacks will be available, and walkers can earn prizes.
As a sign for the event went up on a corner of Circle Boulevard, YAB members Charlie Timony and Elizabeth Giordano gathered at Orange Lake to talk about the new venture. New Port Richey Parks and Recreation Director Elaine Smith and Perry Bean, assistant governor for Rotary District 6950, joined them.
Charlie brought along his dog, Minnie, so the 3-year-old dachshund could familiarize herself with the Orange Lake area.
Elizabeth plans to bring her family dog, Holly, to the fitness walk. "We walk every day with her a lot and she's going to love it."
Elizabeth predicted a "lot of fun for kids 14 and under. Even if you don't have a dog, you can come. You don't have to be a track star to walk around" Orange Lake.
Participants also will get to see military trucks on display.
Local Rotary clubs will help with the YAB event, Bean said. Members from the Port Richey, New Port Richey, Hudson and Holiday clubs "will be on hand here for the event, helping out in various capacities and promoting the message of fitness to our community's youth," Bean said.
Nineteen exhibitors have registered to set up booths.
The fitness walk will be only the first step for participants. Each youth will receive a walking log, Smith said, to jot down how often they get exercise over 14 weeks.
A celebration event for fitness participants will take place on April 20 at Orange Lake. They can turn in their walking logs to win prizes for the amount of physical activity they've done, Smith added.
"We're hoping over that 14 weeks that they'll notice a difference in their physical health."