Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2011

By Elizabeth Cook
Some 110 employees and 50 veterans walked a 2K loop around the Hefner VA Medical Center campus Thursday to exercise and help homeless veterans.
The VA2K Walk and Roll, held at VA campuses across the country, asked participants to bring an item for homeless veterans. The Salisbury group filled a bin for Rowan Helping Ministries with flip-flops, pajamas, socks and other items — even a couple of suits.
In return, each person received a visor, a pedometer, a bottle of water and a chance to stroll along a 1.24-mile course in 90-degree weather.
Hefner VA Director Paul Russo rolled up his shirt sleeves and donned a visor to lead the walkers. They started at the gazebo behind Building 6 and were done within 20 minutes.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Russo said. Trees blocked out the sun in long stretches, he said, so the walk was not as hot as expected.
At least one VA employee, Adina Martin, brought family members along for the walk — sons Andrew Straight, 15, and Ethan Martin, 6.
A few people from the community participated.
And there were indeed some who rolled through the course. Veteran James Luther of Thomasville, a Marine injured in the Vietnam War, joined the group toward the end in his motorized wheelchair. He was on campus as a volunteer veterans service officer.
“I made it!” Luther said. “As long as my battery doesn’t go down, I’m good,” Luther said.
VA employee Meaghan Iddings, who works with veterans on diet and weight issues, organized the event.
Designed to promote employee wellness as well as help the homeless, the 2K was hosted by the Veterans Health Administration’s Employee Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program. VA’s employee wellness program is known as WIN — Wellness Is Now.
According to the 2010 Voice of the VA survey, 25 percent of employees do not participate in any structured exercise, and 59 percent do less than is recommended.
So the Hefner VA’s 2,000 employees were encouraged to spend their 30-minute lunch break Thursday walking the course, and a health fair on the site offered information about diabetes prevention, weight management and other topics.