A walk to remember

Head of the Queanbeyan Health Walking Group received a Monaro Service Award from John Barilaro on Thursday morning. PHOTO: David Butler

Head of the Queanbeyan Health Walking Group received a Monaro Service Award from John Barilaro on Thursday morning. PHOTO: David Butler

HE'S the Jerrabomberra man who heads the biggest walking group in the State, and on Thursday Geoff Schmidt was presented with a Monaro Service Award for his community work in setting up the Queanbeyan Health Walking Group.

Local member John Barilaro presented the award on Thursday morning, just before Mr Schmidt and his group of around 50 walkers (there's close to 200 registered group members) set off for their weekly walk around Queanbeyan.

"There are many unlauded, unrecognised individuals like Geoffrey who quietly make a difference in our community," Mr Barilaro said.

"These people go above and beyond the definition of their role with little recognition to make the community they live in a better place."

The Walking Group started in early 2006 when Mr Schmidt was one of three people to respond to an ad in the newspaper- a joint venture between Queanbeyan Council, Queanbeyan Hospital and the Heart Foundation - looking for volunteers to set up a walking group as a local health initiative.

"The rest, as they say, is history," Mr Schmidt said.

"We started with three people, and we're now the largest [walking group] in NSW with about 180 registered, and the fourth largest group in Australia."

Mr Schmidt, 71, said he was very pleased to receive the award, but was doing so on behalf of his group.

"While I'm getting the award for it, I couldn't have done it without good people around me, and also with great camaraderie from the group. As far as I'm concerned it's a collective award for all of us.

"I truly believe we're providing a real community health initiative, which we're very proud to do and it's good for us all," he said

Every Thursday morning at 9am the walkers set off from Queen Elizabeth Park, opposite Riverside Plaza, and there's three different routes to choose from: the 'hare's route' for the spring heeled, half-cardiac hill for something a little tamer, or the flat walk around Queanbeyan Park, the most popular of the three.

The group has proved a great local health kick for Queanbeyan residents, particularly those recovering from heart disease. Mr Schmidt suffered a heart attack himself in 2002 and turned to walking as a low-impact exercise to get back to health.

"My heart and arteries are now probably healthier than they've ever been," he said.

As for the popularity and ongoing success of the local group, Mr Schmidt put it down to the country atmosphere of Queanbeyan.

"I like to think it's because I tell a couple of jokes every time before we walk, but that's probably not it," he said.

"I think it's the country town camaraderie of Queanbeyan that helps people have more community mindedness, more togetherness and more dependability on each other. It's that country town spirit that's made us so successful."

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