Roads to Freedom: Physical activity & Civil War history
Katie Carpenter | 08.06.13
Roads to Freedom is a summer-long program that encourages children and parents to get outdoors and be physically active by engaging in an adaptation of letterboxing, a hobby in which participants must follow written clues to locate hidden items.
At a Roads to Freedom location in Gettysburg.
The interactive summer program not only encourages kids and parents to get active, but it provides a hands-on way of learning about Civil War history in Adams County.
Kevin Alvarnaz, director of WellSpan Community Health Improvement says, “Getting families outdoors and physically active this summer is the goal of Roads to Freedom."
And, this is a particularly special time to be exploring history in the area. He adds, "With this year being the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Roads to Freedom offers a great opportunity for people of all ages to learn about and appreciate our area’s rich history.”
We met up with the Stremmel family of Gettysburg at one of the Roads to Freedom sites to learn about how the program works, and why it’s a fun way to get active, together, as a family.
Take a look:
More about Roads to Freedom:
The program is unique in that it combines elements of physical activity, reading, and problem solving to create a fun-filled family adventure. This year, Roads to Freedom participants will be searching for “characters” from the Civil War era of American history… from Abe Lincoln to Jennie Wade.
Laura, Melaney, and Trent Stremmel of Gettysburg.
Alvarnez says, “When you’re out hiking, looking for a post, it feels more like a scavenger hunt and doesn’t feel like exercise. It is an innovative way to get kids out and moving.”
Mom, Melaney Stremmel, loves that the program gives she and her kids, Trent and Laura, options to get outside and get away from the video games for a bit in the summer. She says that her kids actually get up in the morning and say, "Mom, let's do a Roads to Freedom today!" So, she's excited that they're enthusiastic about the program, learning about history and being active.
Laura loves exploring. She says, “I like it because we get out of the house and hike and sometimes we find cool places with playgrounds and creeks.”
And Trent is a history buff who loves searching for clues and learning. In fact, Trent was one of last year’s Roads to Freedom winners. His prize? The chance to be a cannon boy in the 150th reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg and fire cannons on the battlefields!
Trent as a cannon boy in the 150th reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg this summer.
Alvarnaz explains that one of the reasons for WellSpan creating this program is to address the issue of childhood obesity and overweight which is attributed to lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating. “So, we’re just trying to create the next generation of kids and parents that are healthier in the longterm,” he says.
He hopes that when the program ends, families will continue to explore together and even continue with the hobby of letterboxing, or it's relative, geocaching. He says, "The most exciting thing for me is to see parents enjoying spending time with their child and being physically active."
It’s not too late to get involved!
Interested participants can visit any Adams County Library, the Historic Train Station (35 Carlisle Street) in downtown Gettysburg, or other select community locations to pick up a free Roads to Freedom Civil War journal to get started. The journal provides clues to finding as many characters as possible. Each character links to a specific location and page within the journal.
Kevin Alvarnaz, WellSpan Health
Participants have the entire summer to locate all fifteen characters and prizes will be awarded to those who complete all 15 characters. The Roads to Freedom program will officially end on Monday, September 2 (Labor Day).
In addition to WellSpan, organizations involved with planning Roads to Freedom include Adams County Library System, Gettysburg Area School District, Gettysburg Borough, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg Convention & Visitor's Bureau, Healthy Adams County, Hospitality Lodging Investors, National Park Service - Gettysburg National Military Park, Seminary Ridge Museum, Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, and the YWCA of Gettysburg and Adams County.
In partnership with WellSpan Health, financial support of the program was provided by Adams Electric Cooperative Inc., the Optimist Club of Gettysburg and Gettysburg College.