by Judy Gonser and Joan Edelmann
The Ocean Walkers Moai in the Beach Cities has become like family for the group of friends and neighbors who have been walking the length of the Redondo Beach Esplanade for up to four days a week for more than six years together. However, the group of 20 people has morphed into more of a social group—meeting multiple days a week to exercise and socialize and embracing each other as family. They’ve celebrated holidays together, spent time in each other’s homes for potlucks and gatherings, gone out on the town out for dinner and even given each other additional support such as advice, rides and referrals.
The group formed the Walking Moai as part of Beach Cities Health District’s Blue Zones Project, which implements programs in the South Bay that have a proven impact on well-being. The idea of the Moai originated in Okinawa, Japan, one of the five places in the world dubbed a “Blue Zone,” where people live the longest and are the healthiest. Moai means, “meeting for a common purpose,” in Japanese and originated as a way for villagers to support each other.
The group’s real test to meet the Moai definition as a primary support group came this year when one team member was diagnosed with breast cancer. Their immediate response was, “What can we do?”
They came together to provide rides to the doctor and chemotherapy appointments, and heard the words, “It’s my turn!” more than once. During times in-between chemotherapy treatments, they spent time together meeting for coffee dates, phone calls and shopping trips.
Knowing their friend would be wearing a variety of scarves, caps and hats, they came up with the idea of decorating her headwear. The friends dug deep into their jewelry boxes and found treasures, including pins of every sort and color that they had collected throughout their life journeys. With these, they helped their friend decorate her new assortment of head finery.
Though she might not be able to walk much with them in the upcoming months, the group ensures their friend she’ll see them just as often.