The sun shone brightly and excitement filled the Southfield City Centre on the morning of June 9 as hundreds of people milled around on the Southfield Municipal lawn, sharing stories, gathering information, and offering support to each other.
This was the scene at the 2019 Southeast Michigan Take Steps for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. The goal was to build community and support for those whose lives are impacted by inflammatory bowel disease.
“By about 9:45 a.m., there were people just about everywhere. Together, we were a little over 1,200 participants,” says Sarah Arminiak, Take Steps Manager for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
Take Steps was bigger in size this year because groups in Washtenaw County joined forces with metro Detroit groups to form a larger Southeast Michigan Take Steps. The merge created one walk that was easily accessible due to the Southfield City Centre’s central location.
This was the second year the Southfield City Centre hosted the foundation’s signature event to raise awareness and funds for research into a cure for Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis and other related diseases.
The event kicked off with family-friendly activities designed to create a sense of excitement and raise visibility about Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. Even people driving on Evergreen Road stopped to find out about the event as organizers were setting up, said Arminiak.
“Hands down, we have more awareness at this location,” she says. “A family who stopped by on Friday had just received a diagnosis and they came to the event to get a feel for it. This location really just encourages more conversations.”
The 2.6 mile loop made good use of Southfield’s City Centre Trail, a larger shared-use path that makes getting around the City Centre enjoyable and safe. The extra-wide path encourages event participants to walk side-by-side, even include a wagon or stroller, and the placement of benches allows walkers to take a rest when they need to.
“People just love that path,” says Arminiak. “It really feels like you are in a metropark. With all the signs and panels you can read and learn. It’s a hidden gem.”
Each participant received a reusable grocery bag stuffed with HAPPENINGS, the City Centre’s quarterly newsletter, and a trail map to encourage many returns to the area for additional exploration on foot or by bike.
The route took participants through the City Centre, past Red Pole Park and the newly-installed bird houses along the path.
“People said they loved seeing Red Pole Park finished, and many commented that they forgot they were in a major city because the space is so nice,” Arminiak says.
The wide open spaces in the City Centre allowed walkers to see one another from opposite sides of Civic Center Drive, affirming the “whole group” feel of the event. “There was a sense of community because everyone could see people walk under the finish arch,” Arminiak says.
Take Steps raised $175,000 this year, which is $18,000 higher than the previous year, according to Arminiak
The event was so successful, the organization is already selecting a date for the 2020 walk, again to be held in the Southfield City Centre, says Arminiak. Plans are underway with City of Southfield Parks & Rec, with the Planning Department, and with the office of Southfield Mayor Ken Siver.
“Really, the event is not about fundraising as much as it is about the community coming together to support those living with Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis,” says Arminiak. “Through this event, people learn they are not alone living with these diseases, but seeing others there to support their journey. While fundraising is our ultimate goal because we are working to find a cure, this event is about community.”