“Volksmarching” is the German word for, “people’s march,” and has been around in Europe since the mid 1960s. Prior to 1968, the International Federation of Popular Sports (IVV) was formed by Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. It’s a non-competitive walk held in communities throughout those countries. The official languages of the federation are English and German with French being used unofficially.

 The reason this is brought up now is because the Health and Wellness Coalition of Runnels County (HAWC), the calling of executive director Dr. Bradly Bundrant, has been in existence for a little over a year and is looking at the possibility of hosting the marches at various locations throughout the county. The HAWC is looking to pick up steam while involving the community in the pursuit of wellness, “I think Volksmarches would be a fun event for the community,” Bundrant when the subject was brought up at a recent HAWC board of directors meeting.

 The goal of HAWC is to increase public wellness and awareness through free health screenings, education and other events that are being planned out. One priority is to find businesses that will help the HAWC by allowing the volunteers to conduct health and wellness screenings at their locations.

 Ideally, a Volksmarch would start with a free health and wellness screening on a Saturday morning, followed by the Volksmarch. In Europe porcelain plates or medals are given out at each march. People of all ages, abilities, body types and varying levels of fitness participate in the marches, many pushing strollers or carrying children. The marches are a popular family sport. I participated in several while I was in Germany for 4 years and they’re a true community event where everyone can share in the camaraderie and fun. Of course, in Germany they don’t have to contend with west Texas heat so the health screenings would ideally begin on or before 8 a.m. with the Volksmarch following at 9 a.m. The lengths of the Volksmarches are typically 5k (3.10 miles) and 10k (6.2 miles), respectively.

 One of the most popular Volksmarches in the United States is the annual Volksmarch at the Crazy Horse memorial in Black Hills, South Dakota. This year will be their 7th annual Volksmarch with over 15,000 people participating. There is an American Volkssport Association as well that helps organize and conduct events across the nation.

Walking, running and jogging are allowed during the march and there are no prizes for whoever comes in first. In Germany everyone who participates and pays a small entry fee receives a medal or plate. The idea around the Volksmarches out here would not include a prize or entry fee but may be included at a later date if the marches prove popular and there are people who want medals or plates. Plates and medals for participants could also be helped along if the HAWC obtains sponsors. The sponsors could promote their businesses on the medals or plates, or they can explore ideas with the HAWC for some other type of award.

 Currently there are 7,500 official IVV events around the world every year that are conducted by over 4,000 clubs. An estimated average of 10,000,000 people participate in the marches. They have picked up steam in the United States in the last 40 years because of service members coming back from those other countries and bringing the tradition with them, organizing Volksmarches in their communities and on their military posts.

 What the HAWC is looking for are locations to hold Volksmarches throughout the county. Also they are seeking ideas on routes people might like to have the course follow. One suggestion already received would to have a route start at city hall and then turn and pass in front of the Carnegie Library and then pass a few churches, a route through local history, as it were. Another option for the 10k version of the same march would take it by the football stadium and down to the high school and back to city hall. There is no time limit and there are no requirements. They are traditional family events from children to grandparents.

 Currently Bundrant and other physicians and physician assistants hold walks on Thursday evening at the Ballinger City Park at 6 p.m. Volksmarches would not necessarily replace those “Walk With a Doc” events, more likely they would be conducted in addition to them.

 If you have suggestions or questions, you can look up the Health and Wellness Coalition of Runnels County on Facebook or email the HAWC chairman of community partnerships @ bhancock@gatehousemedia.com. You can also contact them if you’d like to offer your business as a location to conduct health and wellness screenings.