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December 13, 2011
By JOHANNA BOYLE ( , Journal Ishpeming Bureau

MARQUETTE - Rebecca Olds walks twice a week, making six laps around the Superior Dome in Marquette. Three laps she does walking and three in her wheelchair.

An amputee fitted with a prosthetic leg, Olds said the indoor environment at the dome is a critical part of her own ability to stay healthy.

"This is the perfect place to walk," she said. "It's a smooth, flat surface."

Article Photos

Rebecca Olds is seen in this recent photo taken at the Superior Dome in Marquette. Olds is a cancer survivor who lost a leg following surgery in 2005. She walks at the dome with hundreds of others free of charge each week. The no-cost walking program is possible, thanks to Northern Michigan University, Marquette General Hospital and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which are splitting the $20,000 annual cost. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)

Thanks to Northern Michigan University, Marquette General Hospital and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Superior Dome will continue to be a free place for indoor walking and running.

The three organizations are splitting the $20,000 cost of keeping the dome open free of charge for walkers for 2012, as they have done since the fall of 2009, providing an easily accessible location for just about anyone who wants to be more active. Since starting the free walking program, the average number of walkers in the winter months has increased from 120 to 350.

Olds, who is a cancer survivor, was forced to have her right leg amputated in 2005 after she encountered circulation issues following a surgery. She spent a year in a hospital bed in her home before being fitted for her prosthetic. Thanks to physical therapy, she was able to walk again.

"It was quite a process," she said.

To stay healthy, she continues her walking routine, joining hundreds of other users who circle the dome each week.

The dome not only provides a flat, non-slippery surface for all types of walkers and runners, but the indoor temperature also makes it easier for people to get in and stay active.

"The dome is a resource for the community," said NMU President Les Wong. "It's a perfect location... It's something that Marquette General, Blue Cross and Northern, we said if we're about fitness and health, let's all chip in."

For MGH and BCBS, who are both involved in the healthcare organization Superior Health Partners, providing the free walking space is about helping to make the community as a whole healthier and preventing medical issues before they start.

"If we can keep people healthy, it helps our community," said MGH and SHP Chief Executive Officer Gary Muller.

Muller said the hospital hoped to explore other healthy living initiatives with the university.

The partnership between the university, the hospital and the insurance provider covers the costs of keeping the dome staffed and operating when there are not larger events taking place.

The dome is open to walkers and joggers Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.



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