Baudelia Mendoza is going for a walk at “The Mile” in Hansen Dam, Veterans Park and around other parks in the area. It’s in preparation for her participation in the “Dia de los Muertos 5K” run and walk taking place in the City of San Fernando on Saturday, Nov. 2, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“I think I will be walking the 5K,” says Mendoza, who participates in the diabetes prevention program offered by Providence Community Health Department Wellness Center at the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in Pacoima.
The program keeps people moving with Zumba dance, walks around local parks, and also teaches them how to eat healthier.
“This has helped me to protect against diabetes,” Mendoza said, proudly.
Ismael Aguila, director of Community Health and Partnerships at Providence Health and Services, notes that more than 700 people have passed through the center since the partnership began in January 2019.
The diabetes prevention program lasts a year, and Santiago Gallegos credits it for his now svelte figure.
“Look, no belly,” he said, laughing and touching his stomach.
“I’ve lost 20 pounds in four months, thanks to this program and the girls who treat us well,” he said, complimenting the Providence health workers in charge of the program.
He said his wife has also lost 15 pounds. And that they will both participate in the 5K, an effort that will cap months of exercise.
In its sixth year, the “Dia de los Muertos Healthy San Fernando 5K Walk/Run” gives hundreds of runners and walkers, young and old, a chance t0 lace up their athletic shoes for the wholesome event.
There are several competitions within the event: a kids’ run, an individual 5K and a 5K relay where teams of three take turns completing the 5K. Many families take part in the latter.
The 2019 race has two new routes. First is the new, expanded 5K race route for individual runners that incorporates the San Fernando Mission City Trail that is adjacent to the Metrolink tracks and travels north and south from Recreation Park. The route starts off similar to previous years, but instead of looping back to the park, runners continue on to Fifth Street, then down to Jessie Street, and enter the Mission City Bike Trail just before Truman Street.
The 5K Relay route remains as a loop course; however, the route incorporates the park walking path inside Recreation Park and runs along the altar displays that are part of the festivities.
This event is combined with a cultural festival of music, entertainment and the traditional altars in honor of the deceased, which families begin putting together the night before in honor of Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican tradition that remembers and honors those who have passed away.
Maria de Lourdes Padilla has taken part in the race for several years now, and that’s how she connected to the diabetes prevention program when she approached the Providence booth last year to learn about health insurance.
“I don’t have diabetes, but I participated,” says Padilla, who hasn’t missed any classes.
“It’s helped me to be more sociable. They help us with our self-esteem, to get ahead.”
Attendees also learn how to read food labels, prepare healthy meals, to stay active, and be healthier in general.
Stephanie Bermudez and Jazmyn Jasso, community health workers for Providence Health and Services, said 10 of their diabetes program participants are taking part in the 5K. Most of them signed up for the individual race, but they also have the option of taking part in the relay.
“They’re all at different (physical) levels, but in these 10 months we’ve given them information on how to increase their physical activity and we gave them the goal of running a 5K,” Jasso said.
Bermudez said it’s the first year they’re fielding such a team, that they’re very excited.
“Some participants are even looking at the option of doing the two races, the individual and the relay,” Bermudez said.
Altars for deceased family members and friends can be constructed on Friday, Nov. 1, from 6 p.m. to midnight in Recreation Park, located at 208 Park Avenue in San Fernando. The 5K Relay Walk and Run takes place on Saturday, Nov. 2. starting at 7:30 a.m., at Recreation Park. For more information, call (818) 898-1290 or visit www.sfcity.org.