Sometimes it takes lots of small efforts to make a big change.
The Lean Team, a partnership between the Medical University of South Carolina and Charleston County School District, has been holding regular walks (Saturdays during the school year, additional days during the summer) on the Cooper River bridge for the past year as part of an effort to "turn the tide on childhood obesity — one bite, one step at a time."
While it's geared for youths, more than 200 people of all ages have participated.
Registered dietitian Mary Joan Oexmann is a leader of The Lean Team:
Q: The Lean Team originated a year ago. How did it come about and who are the main players involved in its organization?
A: Dr. Janice Key (director of adolescent medicine at MUSC's pediatrics department) asked me to come out of retirement to take on the challenge of childhood obesity. The problem is serious, big and complicated. We have partnered with the Charleston County School District and are currently in about 10 elementary, middle, and high schools.
We are funded by the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the S.C. Institute of Childhood Obesity and Related Disorders and Food Lion.
Q: Who came up with the idea of walking the bridge on a regular basis?
A: Last November, fourth-year medical student Jennifer Jamison and medical resident Marjorie Turner and I were sitting around the kitchen table brainstorming about how to get people moving.
We decided to make the commitment to walk the bridge every Saturday morning until the 31st Cooper River Bridge Run on April 5.
We agreed to invite students, family members and community leaders to join us. One thing leads to another.
Q: How many miles has The Lean Team walked over the course of the year?
A: Our cumulative bridge miles is 7,000+. This includes Saturdays and this summer's Lit'le Bulldog Campers. Those terrific kids (ages 5-12 years old) walked 1,500 miles. (Some said) "It was a very, very, very long bridge and scary, too." The kids really earned their T-shirts. I am very proud of them!
Q: What about The Lean Team appeals to people?
A: The Lean Team appeals to people because we are completely inclusive. The solution to the obesity crisis takes everyone working together. People like walking the bridge because you cover the distance at your own pace. The view is spectacular. It is a wonderful way to connect with friends and community. It just happens to be good for your health.
Q: Is there one experience with The Lean Team that is particularly memorable?
A: On Virginia Huff's 81st birthday, she began walking the bridge with her walker. She no longer wanted to be a "couch potato." She has now walked 569 miles and lost 42 pounds.
It was just by chance that we began walking on the same day, she from Mount Pleasant and The Lean Team from Charleston. We met at the top and I now have another wonderful friend. There really is something magical about the bridge.
Q: How will you be able to sustain The Lean Team for the next year and beyond?
A: One step at a time. There is an inner core of us who can't imagine not getting up on Saturday morning to walk. If the bridge is there, we will be walking.
— David Quick
WHAT: The Lean Team celebrates a year, and 7,000+ "bridge miles," with a special walk.WHEN: 9 a.m. Saturday.WHERE: The Cooper River bridge at the water fountain on the Charleston side of the bridge.DETAILS: Besides the walk, there will be a fact-finding scavenger hunt and giveaways, such as souvenirs from the 31st annual Cooper River Bridge Run.MORE INFO: musc.edu/leanteam.