Positive Connections: Derby women walking toward friendship

Positive Connections

DERBY, Kan. (KSNW) – One woman’s effort to get fit has turned into a community-wide movement.

“This has been definitely an answered prayer for me,” said Regina Willhight.

Willhight, 47, said she has always struggled with her weight.

“My weight has been a rollercoaster ride. You know, I can lose 30 to 40 pounds and I can put it back on. It’s been that way all my life,” she said.

That combined with the pandemic is why she decided to create the exercise group Derby Walkie Talkies.

“My vision was to start something and walk these beautiful paths and get us out of the house, get us in shape and meet and mingle and make friendships and build community,” Willhight explained.

The mother of six put the idea out on Facebook. Within days, the Derby Walkie Talkies group went from a few members to more than 100.

“I saw it on Derby Chatter. I just put in a friend request and been walking for a couple of weeks now,” said Lisa Barnes.

“When I saw this, I thought that is a great opportunity. I work out every morning anyway by myself might as well find a group that I could do it together,” said Michelle King.

The members meet up for regular walks and workouts at different locations and paths in Derby. A majority of them were strangers before joining.

“This group of women have become instant friends. It has been fantastic,” said King.

“They are friends now. I couldn’t tell you their names offhand, but they are friends. We share a connection. We are trying to get to the same thing. We are all trying to get to that goal,” said Barnes.

Whether the goal is to meet new people or get in shape, many of the women say they have already made progress.

“I have lost eight pounds, and I know others have. They have mentioned on Facebook that they have lost inches,” Willhight said.

“It empowers you. It makes you feel stronger especially when you have a group of women who are cheering you on and really looking out for you whether you are the slowest walker in the group or the fastest,” King said. “All of these women are rooting you all along the way, so it builds that self-confidence in you.”

Willhight said she is proud to have created and be a part of a life-changing group.

“It makes me feel so good. It makes me feel like something is being done in the community. It’s a change in the community, a positive change because right now we are hearing so much negativity and I love hearing the positivity in this group and taking it out there and making it known into the community. It just feels so good,” she said.

The group plans to walk at least once a week so long as the weather cooperates.

“We have a rule if it’s 40 degrees and under, we won’t walk, but 40 and above we will be out there as long as there is no storms or any kind of sleet or ice,” laughed Willhight.

“I am ready. I have winter clothes,” Barnes said.

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