MFM Beginnings


The Founding President says...

A journey to Helen, GA in 1986 took Gloria and Mark Merwarth to their very first volksmarch. At the finish Gloria picked up a copy of The American Wanderer and quickly searched to see if there were any walking clubs in Florida. The closest ones to Central Florida turned out to be the Patrick Pacers on the East Coast and the Suncoast Sandpipers on the West Coast.  Upon her return to Orlando she contacted both clubs and asked to be placed on their mailing lists (those were the days before e-mail).  Six months later she got a notice from the Tampa club and the couple went to their first volksmarch in Florida.

The walks were few and far between but in the summer of 1989 the Merwarths received a notice about a meeting of interested people on the shore of Lake Eola in downtown Orlando.  On that day several people were greeted by representatives from the Pacers and the Sandpipers. It was their idea that a club be formed in Central Florida.  They even offered to donate money for the sanction.  It sounded like a good idea so Gloria volunteered to host a meeting at Winter Park Hospital where she worked.

So, in mid August, 1989, about 17 – 20 people met at the hospital and excitedly began talking about such a club. The name – Mid-Florida Milers- was chosen that evening. Many people stepped up to the plate to perform the various jobs that were identified. Gloria, who was conducting the meeting, volunteered to be the president.  Another experienced volkssporter, Tom Doran, agreed to be vice-president. An interested gal agreed to be secretary and Mark Merwarth became the first treasurer. The Mid-Florida Milers Volksmarch Club was recognized as an official club of the American Volkssport Association in December of that year.  Each year they still celebrate that initial meeting in August and the Christmas party is held in December in memory of the actual sanction of the club.

The Milers started having board meetings in one of the rooms in the hospital Education Department.  That tradition lasted for many years but in the early days the first effort was to put on a walk.  Ernie Eifert volunteered to be the trailmaster and began setting up our first event at Wekiwa Springs State Park.  He meticulously laid out a 10 km and a 20 km trail for the First President’s Day walk.  We had over 300 participants for that 2-day event and sold all of our 100 medals.  In preparation for the event, Phil Jackson, a young man from the Tampa club, designed our logo and our new specialties chair, JoAnne Cross, had our first T-shirts made. We were off to a great start.

While basking in our success another charter member, Jerry Neely, suggested that we set up our next walk at the Seminole Environmental Center at Spring Hammock Park on the shore of Lake Jessup.  In addition to laying out the route he wrote our first few newsletters.  Later he moved to Texas to work for AVA.  After he left the club Gloria started writing the copy for the newsletters and Dan Eifert, a computer guy, laid them out for a few years.  Then one day Dan brought a computer over to Gloria’s house and taught her how to turn it on.  From then on Gloria was our newsletter editor until her retirement in 1997.

The fall of 1990 found the Milers collaborating with the Sandpipers and the Pacers to put on the first Walk Across Florida Labor Day weekend walks.  That Milers walk was at the University of Central Florida which was laid out by Gloria Corbet.  All of these events were well attended and set the format for the successful years that have followed since.

Gloria Merwarth

Founding President