Idaho Representative Marc Gibbs has earned funds each year he has participated in the Steps for Schools walking challenge. In 2019, he designated the funds to A.J. Winters Elementary School in Montpelier. Gibbs is pictured with Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health Executive Director Kendra Witt-Doyle at the 2019 award ceremony.


The generosity of the legislators allows more schools to purchase gear that helps kids be active


When Idaho Representative Marc Gibbs began participating in the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health’s Step for Schools walking challenge back in 2016, the only thing more difficult than taking 10,000 steps a day was choosing a school to receive the funds.

He came up with a generous solution that doubles the impact in his district. Gibbs matches the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health award, meaning two schools receive $500 in funding from Gibbs. This idea also was adopted by Senator Mark Harris, who also serves in District 32 in the eastern portion of Idaho.

Senator Mark Harris

“I’ve taken the lead of Representative Gibbs — I thought it was a good idea and have to give him the credit for that,” said Harris, who lives in Soda Springs.

“Senator Harris and I represent 11 school districts, and several of them have multiple elementary schools,” Gibbs said. “I haven’t worried about getting a donation to every school, but I have wanted to get a donation to every district.”

District 32 is one of the largest in Idaho. It includes all of Bear Lake, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida and Teton Counties, plus a portion of Bonneville County.

The Steps for Schools walking challenge encourages elected officials to be active, engage with the communities and earn funds for local schools. Both Harris and Gibbs are on pace to average the required 10,000 steps a day during February to successfully complete the challenge and earn $500 for the school of their choice. This year, they have selected Teton Valley and Swan Valley elementary schools. With their matching fund commitment, they’ll pick two additional schools.

“There’s not a school in Idaho that couldn’t use more funds,” Gibbs said. “That $500 can buy quite a few jump ropes or dodgeballs or whatever the school chooses. If we can just help with that incentive to get kids out and get moving, it’s a good thing. This is a good program.”

The funds the school receives are for purchasing equipment that helps kids be active or for starting a walking program at the school.

The schools aren’t the only beneficiaries. The participating legislators also are reminded that they need to stay active, which isn’t always easy during the session.

“Some days it’s a little taxing because you’re so busy and sitting during floor sessions,” Harris said. “You’re not walking around. You need to check your step total and make sure you’ve got enough. If not, you go out for a walk.”

Gibbs, who said it’s easy to gain 10 pounds during session if he’s not careful, is thankful that Steps for Schools helps keep him on track.

“This program is something the Blue Cross Foundation is doing that gives back to the community and makes us aware of our personal health habits,” Gibbs said. “I think that’s commendable.”

And so is matching funds to increase the impact and promote physical activity at a local school.

In 2019, Senator Mark Harris earned funds for Georgetown Elementary School.