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Langley volunteer walked into community spirit

The Langley Walk continues after many years because of broad community support.
The Langley Walk is held in a different area each year, alternating between Langley City and Langley Township.

Five years ago, Lisa Boughen took a walk into her new community.

She had moved into Langley three years earlier, and was intrigued when she heard about the Langley Walk.

But she didn’t just walk the route. Lisa has volunteered as a route marshal for four out of the five past years, and intends to join the crew any year she’s available on the Langley Walk date.

“I grew up in Chilliwack,” she said, “and married a Langley boy.”

She quickly discovered the same “community feel” in Langley that she had been used to further up the valley.

It was the special promotion of the Langley Walk’s 50th anniversary celebration that first caught her attention. She thought the whole thing – a completely free event for everyone – individuals, groups, families – was a tremendous idea, and decided this was a way to help out in her new community.

“Volunteering is the best way to feel like you’re part of the community,” she pointed out.

And volunteering at the Langley Walk has been great fun, she said. As a route marshal, she gets to cheer walkers on and share in the fun they’re having.

“There’s high fives and everyone is having a good time,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun, and everyone should participate, whether walking or volunteering.”

The fun is infectious. After coming home with stories of the good times each year, that “Langley boy” she married is hooked: “This year I actually roped my husband into volunteering, too.”

The annual event, she noted, is “totally free, and it’s awesome that it’s been going so long.”

“The Langley Walk is awesome,” she proclaimed.

Barbara Andersen agrees completely.

She’s the one spearheading volunteer recruitment to make the Langley Walk go.

Half of that part of her job as Langley Walk organizer is already done. She has a full roster of volunteers to help out with registration on Walk day.

There’s no pre-registration, so names are taken and numbers tallied while the event gets underway.

“We like to keep track of how many people are participating,” she said.

Also, as in years past, trophies and prizes will be awarded in a number of categories, including to the oldest walker and the most walkers from an elementary school, middle school, secondary school, family, and organization.

Everyone who finishes gets a commemorative crest, and all participants are eligible for draw prizes.

There’s also a safety factor. And that’s where the other cadre of volunteers – route marshals – come into play.

Route marshals are posted along the walk route to help steer people in the right direction.

Between them, they also try to maintain connection with everyone on the route throughout the walk.

“We try to keep from losing people along the way,” Barbara smiled. “We keep an eye out for anyone experiencing difficulties. Sometimes help them find the quickest route back to the start/finish if they feel they don’t wish to complete the planned route.”

At this point, she’s still looking for route marshals to fill in some of the gaps.

Marshalling is a single-day commitment, from noon to five on walk day. An orienteering session is held before the Langley Walk begins.

And volunteers are given lunch.

Barbara noted that they often get a lot of high school students wanting to volunteer. Walk officials have authority to confirm their volunteer effort, for those who get credit for volunteering as part of their curriculum.

“It’s great for grads who need volunteer hours to complete their graduation requirements,” said Barbara. “It’s a five-hour chunk all at once, and you get fed, too.”

Some of the participants who come out to run the course each year double up as volunteers, she added.

Like Lisa, Barbara emphasized the community connection that the event offers. “It’s great for participants and for the volunteers to explore their community.”

This year’s Langley Walk on Sunday, May 7, like the one that first caught Lisa’s attention, is a commemorative event. It’s being billed as a part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

Those who take part in the 2017 Langley Walk can check a number of items off their ParticipACTION 150 Playlist,” said Andersen, a Health and Fitness Recreation programmer with the Township of Langley.

The Playlist features 150 activities aimed at getting people moving. It includes walking (#19), running (#80), and cycling (#2), all of which can be done at the Langley Walk, along with fitness activities (#114) during the pre-Walk warm up.

The Township is connecting with many local organizations to offer as many ParticipACTION 150 Playlist activities as possible during the event.

The Langley Walk was started in 1963 by Pete Swensson, the Township’s first recreation director, to encourage residents to be more physically active. At the time, the walk was 22 miles (35 kilometres) Aldergrove Park to River Road, from Fort Langley to City Park. The walk hit its peak in the 1970s, attracting more than 5,000 people.

It was intended to be a one-off event, but proved so popular that it was decided to do it again. And again. And again!

Eventually, it was slated every year for the first Sunday in May. And part of its mission became an opportunity to explore various neighbourhoods throughout Langley City and Township.

This weekend, the Township’s Willoughby community is in the spotlight. The 2017 Langley Walk will start and finish at the Willoughby Community Centre and Park, at 7888 200th St. Entertainment and registration begin at noon on Sunday, and the walk gets underway at 1:30 p.m.

Participants can choose to take a five- or 10-kilometre route, both of which will accommodate little ones in strollers, those in wheelchairs, and rollerbladers. The 10 km route will include some packed gravel sections and hills. Dogs on leashes are welcome.

Although early forecasts were calling for something like a perfect day for strolling through Langley’s neighbourhoods – low probability of rain, and not too hot – the Langley Walk takes place rain or shine, so volunteers as well as participants are encouraged to dress appropriately for conditions on walk day.

Participants are also encouraged to bring their own refillable water bottles.

After the walk, a free snack, more activities, and entertainment will be offered.