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Exercise Group hits 100K milestone on YMCA track
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DARLINGTON - The Lafayette County Exercise Bunch crossed a major milestone May 28 at the Green County Family YMCA in Monroe. The group of individuals from Lafayette County achieved the 100,000 (5,263 miles) lap milestone, which has been a goal of the group since its inception on Feb. 17, 2004.

To put this into perspective, the group has walked across the United States (3,300 miles) and is almost finished with a second trip.

The group is comprised of individuals, ages 22 to 67, from Lafayette County Human Services enrolled in the Community Support Program. The group, founded by Community Support Program Coordinator Brad Willborn, is currently assisted by Dawn Sennhenn of Lafayette County Human Services.

The group walks each Friday at the YMCA. Each individual sets a weekly goal as well as a long-term goal. Individual goals per outing range from 15 to 40 laps, which is just more than 2 miles. The group's attendance over the past six years has been more than 90 percent.

Since the group started, one of the main goals has been to raise awareness about chronic and persistent mental illness and its lifelong challenges. With the average lifespan being 25 years shorter than the average person, physical and mental wellness is of utmost importance.

Along with walking each week, a nurse from the health department has attended the outings quarterly to screen for elevations in weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. Common side effects of psychotropic medications include weight gain, increases in blood sugars and cholesterol, and variations in blood pressure. Early detection of these side effects has been successful. Individuals have been treated which further decreased medical issues.

In raising awareness of the group and mental illness, members have written letters to local luminaries. These include political representatives and local sports teams. The Lafayette County Exercise Bunch has met with and given presentations to Gov. Jim Doyle and Wisconsin Badgers Head Coach Bo Ryan, and were hosted by the Milwaukee Brewers and seated in the Commissioner of Baseball's personal suite.

The group was nominated for a national award through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for Mental and Physical well being. The group received a citation by the Assembly of the state of Wisconsin.

Each individual received a letter of commendation from Doyle. The group was nationally recognized in a magazine sponsored by the YMCA in 2009.