DAWN STEWART has lived in Savage nearly her whole life, but Saturday she saw her hometown differently - through her feet. Stewart joined about 270 others in the Freestate Happy Wanderers' walk through Savage.
"It was really neat going down roads that you don't normally drive on," she said.
Ramblers had the option of following a 5- or 10-kilometer route that began at the United Methodist Church Faith and Ministry Center and meandered through woodsy trails, historic back streets, Savage Mill, Bollman Bridge and the Savage library.
"You see the community differently, you see the houses differently," said Columbia resident Ruth McCoy, a coordinator of the event. "I know so much about Maryland because I've walked there. You can race walk, or you can stop and smell the roses."
The Wanderers are part of the American Volkssport Association, a national organization that promotes noncompetitive walking and physical fitness awareness. The AVA is affiliated with the international walking group, the Internationaler Volkssport Verband, or IVV.
Some trekkers keep close tally of every kilometer they walk. Others hike just for fun.
Carol Gralia of Columbia started participating in walking events in 1992, but has taken it "more seriously" in the past six years. To date, she has trod about 2,000 kilometers. Her husband, Mars, often accompanies her, as he did Saturday. "But Mars doesn't keep track," she said.
Paul Sabol of Greenbelt keeps track - the 23,000 kilometers he has accrued have taken him all over the country. In walkers' lingo, he is a "Fifty-Stater."
"I've done every state in the union," he says.
The fitness aspect of the sport is evident, but the social aspect is just as important, according to Ric Nauen, president of the Wanderers. "You see old friends and make new friends," said Nauen, who lives in Columbia. He met his companion, Jeanette Anders, at a walking event in Baltimore. "Socializing is a real important component," Nauen said.
Barbara Lynch of Hatboro, Pa., and Ellie Kuntz of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., say that walking takes them to places they might not ordinarily go - like Savage, Md.
"It's a very quaint mill town. We're enjoying the scenery," said Kuntz as the two women passed through the red iron trusses of the Bollman Bridge.
For Lynch, it is more than the scenery. "As a tourist, you go to the tourist spots. But when you walk it, you get a feel for the town," she said. "We get to see how the folks live."
The Freestate Happy Wanderers club meets the second Wednesday of each month at the United Methodist Church Faith and Ministry Center in Savage.
Information: Linda Hassell, 410-437-2164; or visit www.ava.org/clubs/freestate.
An effort to help
When Shawn Mumma applied to the University of Maryland, College Park's teaching program, he wrote an essay about the importance of integrating community service into the classroom, drawing from his experience as a volunteer in a Washington shelter.
Now Mumma, 27, a student teacher at Bollman Bridge Elementary School, is putting into practice some of the ideas he outlined.
Starting this week and continuing into next, the fourth-graders from Lois Savar-Rock's class are collecting items to benefit Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center in Columbia.
"I wanted to do something in these children's back yards," Mumma said. "Lois suggested Grassroots."
Ursula Smith, a Grassroots counselor, visited the pupils April 12 to answer questions about the shelter and offer suggestions. She advised collecting canned goods, snacks, toiletries, school supplies, new toys and blankets for the center.
The children wrote letters to their families and to other classes, urging them to contribute. Mumma hopes the endeavor will strengthen the children's characters and show them that good writing skills can make a difference in the world.
Donations may be dropped off at Bollman Bridge Elementary, 8200 Savage-Guilford Road.
Saturday's stroll through Savage reminded Rosemarie Barber of her native Germany, where volksmarching has long been popular.
But the German version of walking is a little different, the Annapolis resident said.
"In Germany, they associate it with beer," she said. "They pull little red wagons with kegs of beer."
She and her husband, Phil, had to settle for the American version Saturday.
"No red wagon - just a backpack with 7-Up," Barber said.