OTTUMWA — When walkers with Active Ottumwa hit the trail Wednesday for the Healthiest State Annual Walk, their minds were on two people who were missing.

Betty and Remi Panlaqui have been physical activity leaders for Active Ottumwa since January 2017, Active Ottumwa Field Coordinator Sandy Berto said Wednesday. “They are at every event,” Berto said, and they were recently given the Best Foot Forward award for the number of miles they’ve walked.

“He likes to walk the trails,” said Berto of Remi, but the couple also walks at Quincy Place Mall, and sometimes Remi rides his bike.

Remi was hit by a sport utility vehicle while riding his bike on Mowrey Avenue in Ottumwa Sept. 26, a report from the Ottumwa Police Department says. The vehicle’s driver didn’t see the cyclist because of glare from the rising sun.

Remi was transported to Ottumwa Regional Health Center and later transported to the University of Iowa Hospitals. Walkers were told Wednesday that Remi is now out of the intensive care unit.

The Panlaquis’ absence “has been really devastating to our entire group,” Berto said, but the group continues to walk and dedicated Wednesday’s Annual Walk to the Panlaquis.

The Healthiest State Annual Walk was part of the Healthiest State Initiative which encourages Iowans to increase their physical activity by 30 minutes a day. Active Ottumwa walkers made a short loop over the Des Moines River at Bridge View Center in cooperation with Ottumwa Family YMCA as part of the event.

Becky Bucklin, research manager with the Prevention Research Center at the University of Iowa, joined the Ottumwa group. Bucklin gathers data throughout the year, tracking how many people are involved in Active Ottumwa and how much they walk.

Data tracked by PRC are forwarded to the Centers for Disease Control, Bucklin said.

Though local activities are part of a statewide initiative to make people move more, community leaders run the activities and local organizations, Bucklin said. The goal is to increase physical activity. “Just getting people moving.”

Garrett Ross, YMCA marketing director, and Ottumwa Parks Director Gene Rathje, members of the Active Ottumwa community advisory board, joined the walkers, kicking off Healthiest State month.

Healthiest State Initiative encourages Iowans to have one hour of physical activity each day Oct. 1-7.

From Oct. 8-14, Iowans should focus on eating five fruits or vegetables each day and participate in Local Foods Day, sponsored by Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Oct. 11.

From Oct. 15-21, Healthiest State Initiative asks Iowans to spend less than two hours in front of a computer or television screen, and October 22-28, Iowans are encouraged to consume zero sugary beverages each day and to drink more water.

Healthiest State Month concludes Oct. 30 with the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count summit at Des Moines University.

Reporter Winona Whitaker can be contacted at and followed on Twitter @courierwinona.


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