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One step at a time

Modified: Thursday, Nov 20th, 2014

Christee Gamron at the South Jetty beach in Florence

Florence woman creates online walking guide for people with limited mobility

Keep walking. That is the motto of Christee Gamron, a Florence resident with multiple sclerosis who recently developed a website called 100 Steps to help others with limited mobility find local places where they can take short walks and stay active.

“You’ve got to keep moving. That’s so important. The less you do it, the more difficult it’s going to be,” Gamron said. “We always say, ‘Use it or lose it.’ If I don’t keep walking, I’m not going to be able to.”

Gamron, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004, moved to Florence with her husband, Scott, in 2006 because of its cooler temperatures and slower pace, compared with their previous homes in Arizona, California and New Mexico.

Over the years, however, the disease has taken its toll on Gamron’s health. The 43-year-old regularly experiences numbness in her body and a lack of muscle control and mobility, and now she uses a cane to help her walk.

“At the time (of the diagnosis), I was still walking OK. It wasn’t until later when walking became more difficult. Even in the last year, it’s gotten more difficult,” she said.

Then the idea came to her.

While out on a walk with her husband last summer, she began to think of the various places they visit along the coast for exercise and how the information could be useful for others with similar mobility restraints.

“It seemed like that would be the type of information that would be helpful to other people, those of us who aren’t in wheelchairs but still aren’t 100 percent healthy so we can’t walk in miles,” Gamron explained.

She bounced the idea off some friends and, with their support, launched the website, www.100Steps.info, in February. Only four outside venues were uploaded for the launch, but the site has since expanded to include 22 other spots along the Oregon coast.

Each destination is measured in “steps” based on Gamron’s own paces, with most sites being reached in 100 steps or fewer. Some locations also go up to 200 steps for those who are more able.

“100 steps initially hit me as an increment that’s pretty manageable for most people, whether they’re having trouble walking due to degeneration, like me, or whether they have a bad knee or ankle,” Gamron said.

The website includes write-ups for each location, step counts, maps, photos and other pertinent information such as seating options, restrooms and driving directions — all done by Gamron in her spare time.

She currently works as a systems engineer for Cassidian Communications, a California company that makes software for emergency call centers. 100 Steps is her hobby, and she has about 10 more locations scouted and ready to upload — gradually.

Just like in her everyday life, she is taking the website step-by-step.

“I’m definitely going to keep working on it. It’s healthy for me,” she said.

Gamron’s husband has been supportive during her endeavor. He goes with her on the walks, takes photos of the locations and proofreads the website, but most important, he encourages her to keep moving. They have been married for 19 years.

“It’s hard on him sometimes, to see your spouse declining at an age you didn’t expect that to be happening,” Gamron said. “We used to do long walks. We would walk five miles on the beach and didn’t think anything of it. That’s not an option anymore.”

Now, the couple sticks to less strenuous routes, many of which have been documented for the website.

Port of Siuslaw boardwalk, Cape Perpetua Day-Use Area and Darlingtonia Wayside are just a few of the locations near Florence included on 100 Steps. Other Oregon coast spots detailed on the website include Cape Lookout State Park and Fort Stevens State Historical Site in the north and Oregon Dunes Overlook and Sunset Bay State Park in the south.

Paula Burnette, a Peace Harbor Hospital volunteer who came across 100 Steps after an article featuring the online guide appeared in the hospital’s recent Living Well newsletter, called Gamron’s website “beautiful and informative.”

“She has truly made lemonade from the lemons life has given her,” Burnette said.

Gamron said she welcomes any feedback from the community about the website as well as other destinations she could possibly include. But for now, she plans to keep walking and logging her steps.

“Even if it’s just my own personal online log of information, then that’s great,” she added. “It’s rewarding for me.”

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Keywords: Health, travel, walking, 100 Steps, Christee Gamron, limited mobility, Oregon coast, Florence




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