It has been quite a month for the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health, and we have a lot to be grateful for as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. 

We were one of 343 organizations around the world — and the only one in Idaho — to receive unsolicited funding from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott this year. We were given a one-time, unrestricted gift of $6 million. Our team and board of directors will spend the next few months strategizing how to best use this generous gift to address the root causes that impact health in Idaho. 

Kendra Witt-Doyle is the executive director of the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health.

One interesting note about this gift — it was unsolicited. There was no application. Scott and her team don’t tell organizations why they were selected, but there are theories shared by organizations that track her giving. One is that she has focused on nonprofits aiming to make systemic change and that work closely with communities they serve.

That describes the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health. 

We’re treating this donation as an investment in Idaho, and we will do everything we can to maximize the impact of this funding to create transformational and sustainable change in our state. Here is the official announcement from MacKenzie Scott and our announcement.

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY

We are accepting applications from incorporated Idaho cities that are interested adding a health lens to their comprehensive plans. We’ve supported several Idaho cities in this manner because policy is one way to create sustainable change in our communities. Learn about the grant funding and apply online before December 31, 2022.

RURAL HEALTH AWARD 

We received a 2022 Idaho Rural Health Hero Award last week from the Idaho Rural Health Association for our annual Mayor’s Walking Challenge program. We really appreciate this honor because one of our goals is to create statewide impact in our state that is mostly rural. 

The award ceremony included stories of dedication, service, and innovation from our fellow honorees at the award ceremony. Their commitment to rural Idaho is steadfast. We noticed that most honorees were from cities whose mayor participated in the challenge. We also were happy to see so many of our partner organizations attend the ceremony.

As for the Mayor’s Walking Challenge, the annual event continues to thrive. We had 90 mayors, most from rural cities, walk at least 5,000 steps (most averaged at least 10,000) each day during October to earn $85,000 for their communities. This was the largest turnout and payout in the nine years we’ve offered the Mayor’s Walking Challenge, and most of those funds went to rural communities. Here is the list of mayors who earned funds.

The Mayor’s Walking Challenge is a great way for Idaho mayors to learn about the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health and, more importantly, for our team to learn what’s happening across our state from mayors. 

COMMUNITY HEALTH ACADEMY 

The Community Health Academy is a learning collaborative for mayors and city staff to learn ways they can create healthy communities. This year’s cohort included nine cities — Caldwell, Glenns Ferry, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, New Meadows, Nezperce, Payette, Weiser and Wendell.

Each city earned a $20,000 grant to launch or expand a project or program in the community. All partner cities are supplementing our funding, so the impact is expanded. You can learn more about the projects here.

SCHOLARSHIP MEET-UP

The Foundation has scholarship programs with most Idaho colleges and universities, and we were invited to meet one of our scholarship recipients at Idaho State University’s Meridian campus.

Shaina Hansen is an Idaho native enrolled in ISU’s accelerated nursing degree program. You can more about the Northwest Health Science Scholarship Initiative and Shaina here.