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Students, parents hike to school for fitness intiative

Student Luke Strickland, 8, walks with Mike Hesler, right, celebrating international walk to school day, as they walk to Camp Creek Elementary School in Lilburn Wednesday morning.

Student Luke Strickland, 8, walks with Mike Hesler, right, celebrating international walk to school day, as they walk to Camp Creek Elementary School in Lilburn Wednesday morning.

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Camp Creek Elementary School students J.T. Marbet, 9, left, Trent Heilbron, 10, center, and Ben Lightner, 10, right, walk to school on international walk to school day Wednesday morning in Lilburn.

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To celebrate international walk to school day, students at Camp Creek Elementary School walk to school Wednesday morning. Debi Anderson walks with her son Zane Anderson, 10, and their Vizsla breed dog Lucy.

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To celebrate international walk to school day, students at Camp Creek Elementary School in Lilburn, walk to school Wednesday morning. Jane Wilson walks her dog Bella with her children Zoe Wilson, 8, and Blake Wilson, 11. Parent Kerianne Rittenberg walks as her son Craig Rittenberg, 10, anchors the group.

LILBURN — Sneakers stepping in rhythm, moms Kerianne Rittenberry and Jane Wilson walked in tandem, 10 paces behind their sons on a cool autumn morning.

Light fog hangs in the air along Cole Drive, as the two families make their way along the sidewalk en route to Camp Creek Elementary.

Rittenberry said foot traffic trumps car traffic hands down. "It's also good exercise for the kids," she said. "They get a workout before they spend the day sitting in a desk."

Son Craig Rittenberry, 10, and friend, Blake Wilson, 11, are also partial to the idea. More elbow room for punch bug. The two jog ahead of their mothers, trading licks even when there were no Volkswagens in sight.

The Wilsons and Rittenberrys were in good company Wednesday morning as students throughout Gwinnett County laced up their sneakers for International Walk to School Day, an annual effort to celebrate benefits of the light cardiovascular exercise.

Schools in Gwinnett took part in the worldwide effort. Those who participated at Camp Creek Elementary came out full force, according to an organizer.

"We had more walkers this year than we ever have," said Diane Dotson, an employee at the school who stood outside Wednesday greeting students and parents. "We had at least 200 this morning."

She said the weather couldn't have been better either.

Crossing Guard Duane Crawford agreed. The school resource officer stood at a crosswalk in front of the building, stopping traffic while helping pedestrians cross the street.

"I wish it was like this everyday," said Crawford, a smile across his face as he held a stop sign in one hand and waved to walkers with the other.

His cellphone chirped, and he glanced at it briefly. "This is the time of morning usually when everybody's already come and gone," he said. "They're still coming. Lots of them."

Among them: Debi Anderson, son, Zane and their dog, Lucy.

"It's a good idea," Debi Anderson said. "When I grew up, we had to walk to school everyday in the snow!"

Added Anderson: "Just kidding, but it's good for children these days to get exercise like this. It's just a very good idea. I'm glad we do it here."

Trailing not far behind the Andersons, Mike Hesler, walked with Luke Strickland, 8.

Hesler, a fitness advocate, said International Walk to School Day is "like Christmas."

Added Hesler: "It's only once a year, and I get more and more excited about it the closer it gets. This year we've got cooler weather, which is nice. It's a brisk walk, and it gets the blood flowing."

Rittenberry and Wilson said that for some in the area, everyday is Walk to School Day. "It's a good habit," Rittenberry said. "Maybe after giving it a try for a day, they'll choose to make it a routine."