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Catherine Hibbard of Berkshire Humane Society and her shelter dog Justus help lead the Walking School Bus up the hill to Lee Elementary School on Wednesday.
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Lee Elementary teachers Mia Darone and Ashley Hickson with Cooper.
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Kids pet a Berkshire Comfort Dogs poodle.
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The children's pet wall at the school.
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Catherine Hibbard poses with shelter dogs Justus and Sophie.
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Furry Friends Join Lee Elementary School's 'Walking Bus'

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Children pet one of the pups who participated in the walk. Started in 2019, the Walking School Bus invites an organization to walk with it each month. 
LEE, Mass. — Furry friends escorted Lee Elementary pupils to school on Wednesday as part of a monthly event called the Walking School Bus.
They began at the town park, walked down Main Street, and then up the hill to Greylock Street led by several canine pals.
"It's a big community effort every month," physical education teacher Jennifer Carlino said. "It's great for all-around, for the kids for the community, we love it."
Berkshire Humane Society joined the procession with two alumni pups, Justus and Sophie, who found a forever home with Catherine Hibbard, the society's marketing communications manager. Another BHS alum, named Cooper, joined the walk, as he was adopted by Lee Elementary staff member Ashley Hickson.
Following the walk, the school's student council took a field trip to the Pittsfield shelter to deliver items and monetary donations the children had collected. 
Berkshire Comfort Dogs, which will have donated about 30 poodles to county schools come Sept. 1, also joined the walking bus with pups Ellie, Molly and Maui.
Each month, the school picks a theme and invites a group or person to join the kids on a walk. Started in 2019, the Safe Routes to School initiative is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. The following year it received an Exemplary Program Award from the state Department of Transportation. 
There are environmental, health, and social benefits to the Walking School Bus. The goal is to engage students in active transportation and community building in an effective and fun way.
iBerkshires was given a look at Lee Elementary's "pet walls" in one of its entranceways that displays students' pet friends. Made in preparation for the walk, the school revealed that a Berkshire Humane Society donation was provided for almost every pet display.   
The first Walking School Bus occurred in fall 2019 to commemorate National Walk to School day. About 125 students attended along with Lee Police, MassDOT, and School Committee members.
Carlino explained that the student council is asked every month if it has a partnership in mind for the monthly event. Students have walked with Lee Bank, the Kiwanis Club, the school community, and Dresser Hull.
The Kiwanis Club walk helped the organization stuff its trailer with food for the Lee food pantry and the Dresser Hull walk raised money for the Laliberte Toy Fund.
The walks are assisted by the town's first responders, with the Lee Police providing crosswalk assistance and trailing close behind, occasionally speaking to the students from the cruiser radio.
It was clear that both children and adults were having a good time.

Tags: Berkshire Humane Society,   safe routes to school,   

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CHP CEO Stepping Down After Nearly 7 Years

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Community Health Programs (CHP) CEO Lia Spiliotes, who has led CHP since 2015, has announced she is stepping down from CHP. 
In a statement to staff and colleagues, Spiliotes said she intends to refocus on family health priorities in Boston and New York. She stated she is also turning her professional attention to broader advocacy efforts around public and economic policy related to community health. Her last day is June 30. 
"We have accomplished so much by advancing and accelerating CHP's mission and vision," said Spiliotes in a statement. "CHP reaches so many in our community in need, regardless of their ability to pay, but CHP is also a choice for many people who have plenty of health care resources and options. They choose CHP's excellent team for their care, and I am proud to have been among the CHP stewards of our community's health and wellness." 
 "The Board is grateful for Lia's leadership during her tenure," CHP Board President Brian Drake said. "CHP has grown exponentially, achieved strong financial stability, and maintained uninterrupted services during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lia has been a voice of advocacy for healthcare access, and CHP is on a solid path toward the future." 
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