Since taking office in January of 2012, La Porte's Mayor Blair Milo has been anything but traditional from her views on social media to community health. She keeps citizens of La Porte up to date on happenings via almost daily posts on her Facebook page, a first for a La Porte mayor and has taken a stand to improve the health of La Porte citizens with her Fitness Friday Program. Started in March of 2012 with an original partnership between the City of La Porte, the La Porte County Family YMCA and IU Health La Porte Hospital, Fitness Fridays has been a huge success and continues to be run in front of the Y, each Friday, April through mid-October. Never to not think forward, Mayor Milo decided to take Fitness Friday to the State level with her Step Up Saturday program.
"Step up Saturday was really a spinoff of Fitness Friday that we started in LaPorte. It came from the idea that Fitness Friday had become such a resounding success in LaPorte, I think much more than any of us anticipated when we started out doing the program, and I saw the impact that it can have for the community in engaging people and making folks feel a part of their community and then enjoying the program so the health benefits really were kind of secondary," Mayor Milo said. "I thought, you know this is such an easy concept with the cooperation of the LaPorte County Family YMCA and IU Health LaPorte Hospital now along with a couple other program sponsors such as, GIS Insurance and the LaPorte Savings Bank that it's not cost intensive, it's not man-power intensive, you just really have to set a time and day that you want to everybody to come and meet, identify a route, and it's just that easy. So I thought, well if we can take this concept to more communities across the state, then we can help those communities to engage people in their citizenry with whatever their doing in their community and if we can get people thinking more about physical activity in their daily routine as they have done in LaPorte then maybe we can get Indiana to be a healthier state since we are the 41st most unhealthy state out of 50."
Mayor Milo quickly got to work making her vision a reality. She reached out to La Porte County Family YMCA Executive Director Cindy Berchem to get contact names of YMCA's throughout the state since the La Porte County Family YMCA had been so actively involved in Fitness Friday and since improving the health of the communities YMCA's serve is a large part of the daily work they do. IU Health was also instrumental in helping make local connections, along with Mayor Milo's fellow Indiana mayors.
"Ultimately the audience I was trying to reach were the mayors, the clerk treasurers, the YMCA directors, those kind of folks to show them what this could be for a community," she said.
Mayor Milo has enjoyed travels throughout the state and is pleased with the overall good turnout.
"It's been tremendous in some communities, I give the example if Huntingburg, Indiana where they then started the program, 5-5-5, where they did 5 Fridays where at 5 o'clock they would up to a 5k. They have had wonderful success with that program and it's been fabulous. For a lot of communities, who don't have a lot of people to do something like this, I think they enjoyed having this idea brought to them and shown in a way that this is easy to do on a regular basis. There are some communities that never responded to my emails and so that's fine. I'll just come and run by myself, I'm not trying to force this on anybody," Mayor Milo said.
What started as a lofty goal of visiting all 92 counties in the State of Indiana is almost a reality. This Saturday, October 25th, Mayor Milo will take Step Up Saturday to the final four counties in the State of Indiana and in typical Mayor Milo fashion, she is already looking for her next health initiative.
"I learned a tremendous amount from other communities of different things of they're doing and one of the specific things that I'm really intrigued with is doing a regional wellness council. I saw how they were doing that in south central Indiana and it was a council of local governments, businesses, and not for profits all throughout the region all focusing on different wellness initiatives that they could enact within work places in the community and I thought that was a really great opportunity so that's something I want to look into here," Mayor Milo said in closing.