Making it a mother-daughter event, Sandra Hill (background) and Janine Lewis had their blood pressures screened at the WOW kickoff on March 19. Carole Barzilai and Consuelo Erfé were among 17 volunteers from St. Francis Hospital at the event.

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The Line Dance Divas seemed to be having so much fun it was hard not to smile, or clap or even join the two dozen women in hot pink T-shirts as they put an urban twist into country-style line dancing. Their demonstration in Bacon Cafeteria at Evanston Township High School on March 19 was the counterbalance to the more serious screenings – blood pressure, height, weight and body mass index – offered in the hallways. All were part of the kickoff of Women Out Walking, a 12-week program to help women become more conscious of movement, nutrition and ways to improve their health and that of their families. Equipped with pedometers, logs and enthusiasm, nearly 1,000 women planned to hit the streets last week, as March 21 was the first official WOW day.

Evonda Thomas, director of the City’s Health Department, the principal sponsor of the program, said, the mission of the Health Department “is to try to create a more healthy and livable environment for those who life, work and play in Evanston.” WOW is part of that effort.

“Women take care of everyone else in their lives, and they often put aside exercise and healthy eating to do those things,” said Linda O’Dwyer, director of marketing and public relations for St. Francis Hospital. “These women [WOW] have taken the first step toward a healthier lifestyle. Walking helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart attacks,” she added.

This is the third year of WOW for JoAnn Avery. “Last year I walked with three people. This year I’m walking with members of my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta.” She said she likes walking because of the health benefits, the inches it takes off and, and because “I want to feel great about myself.”

Alderman Jane Grover of the Seventh Ward is clocking the miles on her third year of WOW. She is a runner, and she said WOW “jumpstarts the running season and folds nicely into the Ricky Byrdsong Race Against Hate” in June. “When [I’m driving and] I see the women in their WOW T-shirts, I honk. When you take time to get exercise, you’re doing something for the whole family.