Employees Walk the Fitness Walk at Billiken Parade

Scenes from the Bud Billiken Parade, a favorite of the University of Chicago Medicine family, on August 9. Chicago Defender founder Robert S. Abbott launched the parade in 1929 and the name owes a debt to his nickname and the Billiken, a mythical Chinese figure that protects children. (Photo: Bruce Powell)

Scenes from the Bud Billiken Parade, a favorite of the University of Chicago Medicine family, on August 9. Chicago Defender founder Robert S. Abbott launched the parade in 1929 and the name owes a debt to his nickname and the Billiken, a mythical Chinese figure that protects children. (Photo: Bruce Powell)

University of Chicago Medicine marchers stepped lively — and counted their steps – at the 85th annual Bud Billiken Parade.

Nearly 200 Medical Center and Biological Sciences staff members donned maroon T-shirts and pedometers for the August 9 back-to-school celebration, the largest U.S. African-American parade. The message: Let’s get fit in mind and body.

“We’re a healthcare organization – that’s who we are, that’s what we do,” said Susan Peters, who coordinated the pedometer brigade through the Urban Health Initiative.

The two-mile route through sunny Bronzeville translated to about 5,000 steps. Brenda Battle, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, went the distance by making pre- and post-parade rounds. “I hit over 10, 000,” said Battle, RN, BSN, MBA.

Sedentary people take fewer than 5,000 steps daily. Active individuals walk 10,000 steps or more a day. The low-to-moderately active fall between this range.

Deejay Nehpets Giddens upped the ante by working the turntables, prompting marchers to bust their best dance moves. Backed by the Kaotic Drumline aboard the UHI float, the WPWX-Power 92 mixmaster spun favorites like V.I.C.’s Wobble, Lil’ Mama’s Lip Gloss and local rapper DLow’s DLow Shuffle. The hoppy-boppy Shuffle “really gets them going,” Giddens said.

NICU nurse Pam Washington improvised her own workout: Pushing her two toddlers in a stroller. But Washington, RN, BS, was energized by the parade’s pro-education theme.

“I’ll do anything to keep the kids in school, keep them motivated and let them know someone cares,” she said. “It takes a village.”

Notable Billiken attendees included Gov. Pat Quinn, Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

South Side-born R&B great Chaka Khan drew screams. So did Clark the Cubs mascot, venturing into White Sox territory. “Everyone’s been friendly so far, so it’s all good,” handler Beth McGinn said.

A white-coated stilt walker, juggler and clowns rounded out the UHI unit, with the Comer Pediatric Mobile Unit bringing up the rear in style.

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