Virtual version of Walk for Wellness

Hinsdale tradition continues Saturday with modifications to keep participants safe

For more than two decades, people have gathered one spring morning each year to stroll together through the streets of Hinsdale in support of Wellness House. Known as the Walk for Wellness House, the event raises money for the organization's cancer support programs and awareness of the services provided for people with cancer and their loved ones.

"It's something that the community has grown to expect and look forward to being part of," said Executive Director Lisa Kolavennu. And while things will look a little different this year, Kolavennu said even a pandemic won't get in the way of this important event.

Like so many events, the Walk for Wellness House has been moved online this year. Rather than a gathering of thousands walking the route together, participants are encouraged to forge their own paths at a time that works for them.

Set for Sunday, June 28, the day will begin at 8 a.m. with a livestream introduction and pep talk. Then, participants are encouraged to schedule a time during the day to complete their own walks.

Oralia Martinez and her family haven't yet plotted their path, but Martinez said they will walk as a family on Saturday. She said it's her way of giving back to an organization that has given her and her loved ones so much.

Martinez started attending Wellness House programs shortly after her breast cancer diagnosis two years ago. She began attending support groups, which Martinez said helped her to cope with the emotional and physical effects of her illness and its treatment.

"They helped me to handle the side effects," she said.

Eventually, she added nutrition, cooking and exercise classes, which helped her to adopt the healthier lifestyle she enjoys today.

"It's not just for me, it's also for me family," said Martinez, whose husband and children now enjoy the healthy meals she has learned to prepare.

A recent visit with her doctor confirmed that Martinez is now in good health, and 10 pounds lighter, thanks to her new habits, which include several exercise classes each week. Martinez participates in support groups, workouts and yoga, all from her own home.

Kolavennu said the move to virtual programming in response to COVID-19 was quick but smooth for Wellness House.

"We had been testing some ideas for online programs over the last few years," Kolavennu said, so they were positioned to move when the pandemic hit.

Along with the large number of classes and programs already offered at Wellness House, staff called upon their experts to add programs that specifically address COVID-19 risks for people with cancer.

"They can be in a vulnerable health position," Kolavennu said.

The three virtual programs, recorded and available on the Wellness House website, address ways to stay safe during the pandemic.

"We're looking forward to the day we can be back in person," Kolavennu said. But now that programs are working well online, she said they likely will continue as an added benefit for those served by Wellness House.

People who are feeling weak, unwell or who are too far away will continue to have online access to Wellness House services, even when the pandemic has ended, Kolavennu said.

And while she also looks forward to the return of the Walk For Wellness House in its original form, she's impressed with the community's ability and willingness to adapt to this year's virtual event.

Walkers can register themselves and their fundraising teams at The fee for registration is $30, and walkers are encouraged to collect pledges in support of their efforts.

After watching the virtual kickoff at 8 a.m., walkers can choose their own way to get active, whether it's walking, running, roller blading or some backyard yoga, Kolavennu said.

"This is a critical fundraiser for Wellness House," said Kolavennu. With less than a week to go before the event, Wellness House had raised 73 percent of its $625,000 goal.

"We still have plenty of opportunities for sponsorship," as well as individual participation, Kolavennu said. "We still have time to meet our goal."

Kolavennu said one benefit to the virtual version of Walk for Wellness House is the ability for people outside of the Hinsdale area to join. People living anywhere can sign up to walk and to support the Wellness House.

"It's redefining what community is for Wellness House," Kolavennu said.

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean