Students renew summer tradition with first West End Walk of the year

Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 7:19 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The heat and humidity were already climbing when more than 100 young people gathered outside the West End Center Wednesday morning.

But they weren’t concerned as they set off on the first West End Walk of the year, a one-mile hike to the Grandin Theatre.

The summer tradition is a favorite - one the students say they look forward to all year.

“It’s one of the reasons the kids come in the summer, said West End Center Executive Director Karen Pillis. “They love this event. It bridges the southwest. It bridges the entire neighborhood and so the children get a feeling for the southwest part of the city and they love it.”

“They walk in any weather,” said Ally Bowersock with Run About Sports. “It’s hot. It’s cold. It’s raining. So it encourages that physical activity and appreciation for the arts.”

Center staffers led the way - with volunteers, police officers and sheriff’s deputies providing an escort.

Partners including Freedom First Federal Credit Union and Run About Sports make it possible.

“It’s a mile exactly from here to the theatre,” said Grandin Theatre Foundation Executive Director Ian Fortier. “And what a great way to incorporate health, wellness, exercise, arts, culture, transformation experience, so we started the West End Walk.”

When the students arrived a short time later, their Grandin Theatre experience included popcorn and lemonade, and a screening in the main theatre.

“If it doesn’t happen, I lose my mind,” said rising 7th grader Adrianna Mack. “Why is that,” we asked? “Because everybody gets to bond, and chat and communicate with other people,” Mack told us.

And they’ll get to do it all again on three more dates this summer.