A record number of elected officials participated in the 2019 Steps for Schools walking challenge – taking more than 17 MILLION STEPS.

State legislators can be considered role models, so it’s no surprise that many of Idaho’s elected officials participated in the month-long challenge to benefit youth in their districts by encouraging active lifestyles.

Elected officials celebrated walking over 17 million steps in the 2019 Steps for Schools Challenge that helped raise $22,500 for schools.

The Steps for Schools walking challenge is a program sponsored annually by the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health. Steps for Schools encourages members of the Idaho State Legislature and other elected officials to stay active and set a good example for children in their district by trying to walk an average of 10,000 steps a day in February.

The participants who meet the step goal earn $500 to donate to the school or district of their choice for playground or physical education equipment.

Nearly 60 legislators and elected officials participated in Steps for Schools this year, and 45 met the step goal. That raised $22,500 for schools. The elected officials received the funds at a ceremony in the State Capitol Building and learned they collectively took more than 17 million steps – enough to walk from Boise to Washington, D.C., and back.

Representative Bryan Zollinger

“It’s an excellent program, and it’s for a great cause,” said Representative Bryan Zollinger, who was one of three participants to average more than 20,000 steps a day. “I do this for the kids and just to get the word out about how important walking and exercise are for youth today.”

The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health has sponsored Steps for Schools for five years and has given more than $80,000 to Idaho schools since its inception.

Steps for Schools aligns with the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health’s High Five childhood obesity initiative which works with communities to promote healthy eating and physical activity among Idaho’s children.

“Childhood obesity is a serious problem in Idaho,” said Kendra Witt-Doyle, the executive director of the Foundation. “It negatively affects children’s behavioral, academic and mental health. It is going to take all of us, including our legislators, to make Idaho a healthy place for our children.”

Representative Jarom Wagoner and Kendra Witt-Doyle, Executive Director of the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health

The participants also benefit from being active. It wasn’t uncommon to see elected officials hitting the treadmills at the gym before or after long days in session.

Some participants, including Representative Jarom Wagoner, set higher goals than 10,000 steps. He aimed for 20,000 and met his goal by running or playing basketball in the morning, and then parking his car a mile or two from the State Capitol Building, so he had to walk that distance to and from work.

“Getting exercise throughout the day is key,” Wagoner said.

The elected officials also get to show their competitive side during Steps for Schools. During the challenge, they can view a leaderboard that shows how many steps the other participants have taken.

Representative Mat Erpelding

“It allows my colleagues and me to have a little back-and-forth about who’s winning,” said Representative Mat Erpelding. “This is fun, especially when it’s a friendly competition.”

And that competition is especially important when it promotes being active and benefits so many Idaho children.