DOVER -- "This is exactly what I need to help me get out there and walk!"

Those words were repeated by many of the 150 people who registered over the past weekend for the new Union Hospital Community Walking Program. Union Hospital launched the program at the Family Wellness Day event at New Towne Mall.

Hundreds more are expected to enter the program in the coming weeks and months, according to Pam Dummermuth, the hospital's coordinator of community health and wellness.

"We had a great response from people at the Mall over the weekend. We're receiving phone calls this week from people who want to be involved," Dummermuth said. "We encourage people to join our program and become part of the walking community we're building."

Dummermuth said registration forms can be downloaded and printed from the Union Hospital web site at www.unionhospital.org. Printed forms are also available at New Towne Mall at the Community Walking Program display outside the concourse entrance to Elder Beerman and in the Mall Office.

UH community health nurses will be at the Mall on the third Friday of every month from 9 a.m. until noon to register new walkers, offer free health screenings, and distribute rewards to those who've reach walking goals. The next visit is Friday, April 20.

Community Walking Program participants receive a membership card that will earn them exclusive rewards throughout the year from mall merchant partners. Dummermuth said the first offer is a 15 percent discount on any shoe purchase from Dunhams during the month of April. Other Mall merchants will have special offers and discounts for Community Walking Program members each month in 2012.

Dummermuth said the popularity of the Community Walking Program stems from the support it offers to participants.

"We've heard time and time again that people really like the goals and structure the Community Walking Program offers," Dummermuth said.

Goals begin with 500 minutes of walking, followed by goals of 1,500, 3,000, and 6,000 minutes.

Dummermuth said participants can walk at New Towne Mall, on their neighborhood sidewalks, local fitness center, community stadium track, or anywhere they choose. The dates and minutes walked are recorded on the Walking Record Card.