MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. -- Broken clouds and a temperature of 36 degrees at start time didn't deter a hardy crowd of faithful when it came time to embark on the inaugural Madigan Volksmarch on Nov. 23.
Dr. Karen Lesniak, a health psychologist, and Maj. (Dr.) Eliza Szymanek, a physical therapist, the event's main planners, were at the start/finish line to greet the participants and hand them a patch to commemorate the occasion.
When Szymanek got the call to bring the vision of Madigan's commander, Col. Thomas Bundt, to life with this event, she enlisted her physical therapy team.
Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Pugh, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, and PT interns, 1st Lt. Lydia Blondin, 1st Lt. Mark Nash, 1st Lt. Lorrie Santoy and 1st Lt. Joseph Wise, were quick to join the planning effort.
The project came to the team just a few weeks after the interns came to Madigan in July. Their internships require them to complete a health promotion project, so the timing could not have been better.
The Volksmarch, which means "peoples' march" in German, is a tradition that developed in the 1960s as a way for people to get outdoors and focus on camaraderie and fitness without competition.
Starting at the Madigan Pond, the route went over to the Madigan Annex area and into the Murray Creek Trail.
"We were excited to find that trail in there," said Blondin.
In addition to the road/off-road mix in the terrain, the route included additional activities.
"To help the kids, we made a scavenger hunt just to keep them looking around as they went through the route so they weren't getting bored," Blondin said.
"We had a fitness challenge element, too, so there are different spots on the route where you could do squats or burpees or push-ups. We were trying to keep people engaged on some of the longer stretches," added Wise.
Wise noted these elements are in keeping with the "essence of the Volksmarch" because, as Blondin explained, "People are not competing for a time; they can take their time and do some extra activities."
Once finished with the march, the variety continued with the health fair inside the Medical Mall.
"We have the other activities; we have the health fair and some kiddo activities as well. We are trying to be as inclusive as we can for everyone," said Lesniak.
"We wanted it to be a holistic health fair, involving behavioral health, occupational therapy, physical therapy, so there are aspects of all of that here. Sleep is also here; and dental," said Szymanek. She went on as more participants came to mind, "MWR, Army Wellness Center.
The ground floor of the Medical Mall was filled with tables loaded with information and staffed by friendly and helpful representatives.
Madigan dietitian Nora Patterson explained to visitors at her table, "There is a new generation of nutrition labels coming out now." She showed how the new labels display added sugars so that what occurs naturally in a food can be distinguished from what is added.
1st Lt. Tyler Simmet, a physical therapist dressed in what can only be described as traditional German active wear, assisted those interested in trying out elements of the new Army combat fitness test to include the deadlift and a weight set up that is pulled. That proved a hit with kids as they turned it into a sled and dragged one another around.
Garrison agencies joined in to inform attendees about the health and wellness programs and services available locally.
Angela Moncada, a social worker, and Veronica Saez, a nurse, brought toys for young children and lots of information for adults on the New Parent Support Program on base.
"We help parents with anything related to parenting. For example, sleep training, toilet training, if there's a new baby, how to introduce the baby to the siblings, how to transition, if dad is away or mom is away, how to help with those behaviors that may arise," said Moncada.
The program's 10 nurses and social workers are constant figures at Madigan.
"We come every day for the new moms who've just had a baby in the mom and baby unit and we present our services," she said. "We have play groups so that way moms get to meet other moms and they build their support system," she added.
Right next to their table was the Employee Assistance Program, staffed by Ana Delgado, a certified employee assistance professional.
"We offer a variety of programs, resources, connectivity depending on what the issue is that may be affecting them in or out of the workplace," she said.
"We serve the civilian population, the spouses or any person with an ID card above 18 years old. We also support management and we also support active duty managers who deal with civilian personnel; we deal with consultations with reference to performance and conduct," Delgado said.
In addition to those mentioned, Madigan's booths included TRICARE, Combined Federal Campaign, a raffle, food for sale to benefit the winter ball, and a Christmas tree ornament sale by the Family and Soldier Readiness Group to support the procurement of care boxes for deployed Soldiers.
Booths fielded by the Joint Base Lewis-McChord community also included the USO, Family Advocacy Program, JBLM Outdoor Recreation and the Armed Forces Wellness Center.
A corner of the area was devoted to kids' activities to include both a basketball and a cornhole toss as well as face painting.
One Madigan family that enjoyed the event was the Mounts. Dad George, mom Cristin, and their three boys- stroller-bound 1-year-old Will; Matthew, aged 2; and Peter, who is 4.
Col. Cristin Mount, who is Madigan's deputy commander for Medical Services, appreciated the care that went into planning the event.
"I think it is really wonderfully organized. The lap was really easy for the kids to walk; it was easy to push the stroller. So, that was really nicely and well thought out for everybody," she said.
"I enjoyed being able to participate and bring the little kids and do that together as a family," she added. She enthusiastically offered that the kids loved the day's activities too.
"They were running and following the arrows and saying hi to the Army guys; they had a great time," Mount said.
Mount echoed a sentiment heard around the march, "I think it is a nice tradition and I hope we continue to do it, year after year."