BY SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR
McAllen City Commissioner Veronica Whitacre has long been an advocate of health and safety. She founded the Run, Ride, Share committee, which advocates for safety among runners, motorists and bicyclists. She is an avid triathlete, swim instructor and bicyclist who has completed a 100-mile race. From 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday she is hosting her annual Health and Safety Family Fair at Town Lake at Firemen’s Park at 201 N. 1st Street, in McAllen. This free event is a chance for families to also run a mile (or two) around Town Lake to log mileage toward completion of the McAllen Kids Marathon. She explains:
Q: What is the Health and Safety Family Fair? And who can attend?
A: The Health and Safety Family Fair is a town hall meeting with a commissioner. This fair is to promote safety with McAllen Police Department as they take finger prints and distribute safety tips for you to take home. The McAllen Fire Department will have Sparky, the fire mascot along with their robot to educate families about fire safety.
Health is an important part of the fair, as you can do your grocery shopping at the farmer’s market at Town Lake at Firemen’s Park. The kids can run a mile for the McAllen Kids Marathon around the lake. Health and safety tips and ideas are a vital part of your daily lifestyle.
Q: When did this begin and why?
A: The Health and Safety Fair started last year. As an avid slogger (slow jogger), cyclist and someone attempting to live a healthy lifestyle, I feel it was a fun way to educate families to be active. It’s also a great opportunity to visit with your commissioner about your neighborhood and city.
Q: You always seem to incorporate health and fitness into your leadership role within the city. Why?
A: In April 2014, after several pedestrian and cycling accidents, I felt it was important to try to make a difference. The Run, Ride and Share awareness campaign was initiated. It’s often said, “Do as I do not as I say.” It is important to be involved and motivate others. The city hosts many events incorporating health and safety and, again as a commissioner, I feel I can encourage the community by staying active and involved.
Q: You were on the City Commission when it began the McAllen Marathon and on the founding committee of the McAllen Kids Marathon. How have you enjoyed participating in these events?
A: As an involved and active commissioner, I have enjoyed watching the involvement of the kids and the parents. The McAllen Marathon has a strong following and everyone looks forward to it every year.
All of these events are important to keep everyone active and involved. When you create activities, people have a better way of life. As a role model, we educate people to become healthier and safe.
The Run, Ride & Share campaign has now branched out and partnered up with other surrounding cities such as Pharr, Edinburg, Weslaco and Mission. We initiated Operation Clean Sweep to get local cities working together to clean the shoulders of the roads and highways for bike safety. More importantly, it brought together city workers to communicate as a region. Our campaign has also started to educate our youth in our local schools through their physical education classes. Run, Ride & Share committee members host bike rodeos, bike safety and bike education classes for children at special events. We also educate our youth with bike rodeos at the McAllen Boys and Girls Club.
Q: Why are these events important for the Rio Grande Valley?
A: Run, Ride & Share campaign has been instrumental with implementing emergency call boxes on our hike and bike trails. The emergency call boxes are helpful to our active community; not only are they important to those in need of help due to an attacker but, to those who are also in need of medical attention.
Q: You also co-founded the Run, Ride & Share Committee. Tell us about its accomplishments.
A: The Run, Ride & Share campaign has been so active in the community and has had such an impact to raise awareness. We believe we can reduce fatalities by educating the entire community. The campaign has received a lot of attention in the local newspaper, social media, signage on city garbage trucks and signage on our hike and bike trails.
Q: You went to Boston a few years back to study the Boston Marathon. Do you think the McAllen Marathon Scott Crane Memorial Crane Run can one day be as big and popular as the Boston Marathon?
A: As we continue to grow and promote the McAllen Marathon Scott Crane Memorial Run, the event has become popular. The course is flat, fast and is a Boston qualifier. It has become an international event as we get runners from Mexico. We have something for everyone starting with the McAllen Kids Marathon, 5k and 10k run, a half marathon, a full marathon and a full marathon relay. Everyone in your family can become part of this great event.