By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
In the early morning hours, before the Oshawa Centre is packed with busy shoppers and lounging teenagers, a large group of residents are using the facility, not for commerce, but for exercise.
For the past 25 years, through a joint venture between the Oshawa Seniors Citizens Centre (OSCC) and the Oshawa Centre, the Sneakers Walking Club has offered residents a relaxing place to stay fit and meet some new friends.
The club recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a special event at the mall.
Donna Rotz, a former employee at the OSCC, was present for the club’s early stages.
“When we started it in 1992, the Oshawa Centre approached the Senior Citizen’s Centre about setting up a program for people interested in walking indoors and they were actually the ones who designed the name and logo for the Sneakers Walking Club,” Rotz explained.
Although there are many similar clubs at the present time, Rotz says it was a relatively new concept in 1992.
“We were definitely one of the first in Canada. We had different companies coming to the OSCC asking how to set up a formal walking group.”
Steve Avray has been a member of the club for 14 years.
For him, the Oshawa Centre offers a “very friendly, very safe atmosphere” for walkers.
“It’s air conditioned, and in the winter, it’s a safe place to walk, especially with the snow,” he says.
The club currently boasts a membership of 280, with Arvay estimating roughly 120 “are very active on a daily basis.”
The official hours of the club are between 8 and 9 a.m. at the mall, but Arvay says many walkers will get an early start.
“They are encouraged to walk any time they want.”
Official records of the number of laps and kilometres each member racks up on a daily basis are logged, and when certain milestones are reached, they receive a prize.
During the 25th anniversary, six members were recognized for logging 7,530 kms, a distance equal to a trek across Canada, receiving a gift certificate and plaque.
Besides the obvious health benefits of walking everyday, the club also features a social aspect as well.
“Very much so,” Arvay says. “For example, about 10 years ago, a bunch of us decided to take a cruise together.”
“We always meet up after at McDonald’s, and we sometimes have parties outside the mall,” he continued. “It’s a great way to meet people, socialize and stay healthy and active.”
Rotz says she is very pleased to see the club still going strong.
“I think it’s just amazing that it’s kept on going, largely due to the involvement of the volunteers, because they are the faces walkers see when they come in during the morning.”
Anyone who is interested in joining Sneakers Walking Club can do so by visiting the Oshawa Centre between 7 a.m. and 9:15 weekdays or online at the OSCC’s website.