Heads up Teton County, it’s not quite time to put those tennis shoes away quite yet.
Mayors Hyrum Johnson (Driggs), Will Frohlich (Victor), and Brent Schindler (Tetonia) are competing in the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health's Walktober Mayor's Walking Challenge.
The statewide initiative challenges Mayors and their communities to rack up the steps for a reward of community funds. Mayor Schindler, who was appointed to the position early this year, is participating for the first time.
Mayors that average 10,000 steps per day will reap a $1,000 donation, and a 5,000 steps/day average will net $500.
The initiative started in 2014 and involved 14 mayors in and around Boise. Since then, more and more mayors from around the state have signed up each year. The first year that mayors from Teton County participated was 2017 when mayors from Driggs and Tetonia signed up.
Since then, Teton County mayors have brought in $9,000 through the challenge, with an opportunity to bring that total to $12,000 if all mayors are successful this year. Past local applications for the funding have included disc golf baskets, dog park improvements, and temporary city ice rinks.
Since becoming a statewide challenge, 'Walktober' has raised $206,000 for cities across Idaho.
Kendra Witt-Doyle, executive director at the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health, spoke to the values of the challenge.
“It’s a really amazing opportunity to not only promote health champions but also encourage the mayors to get out into their community and support that community through the funds that they can win,” said Witt-Doyle.
Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health targeted mayors due to their position as community leaders.
“When you think about a mayor, they are such a leader throughout their community,” said Witt-Doyle. “When we started this we really wanted to target mayors to encourage them to become champions for health in their community and have a fun challenge.”
As for the mayors themselves, they are, as always, excited at the chance to lead by example.
“It is extremely important to lead by example, especially when we are referencing our overall health as a community and encouraging our younger generations to be active and get involved,” said Mayor Frohlich.
Mayor Johnson chalked it up as an extension of his duties, one that he particularly enjoys.
“Being an effective mayor entails far more than the routine duties we see in council meetings or in the office,” said Johnson. “In fact, it is these walks with students and community members which I find most fascinating and enjoyable as mayor.”
Mayor Schindler pointed to walking as an easy, and scenic, way to take in the scenery that looms above us.
“There are many ways in which we can enjoy the majesty and the beauty around us. Walking is an economic way that allows us to exercise AND enjoy our surroundings,” said Schindler.
All three mayors are going a step further with the challenge, with events planned at their respective elementary schools.
Mayor Johnson and Mayor Schindler are even having a light-hearted competition: If Tetonia wins, Driggs Mayor Johnson and Schindler will both wear Tetonia shirts. If Driggs wins, the two mayors will wear Driggs shirts. Pictures will be taken to remind the runner-up.
“We mayors have always loved to engage with each other in our service to the community,” said Mayor Johnson. “This not only amplifies the conversation about health but also demonstrates to our community how mutual cooperation and reaching beyond our own community provides a far greater benefit to all than each of us ‘going it alone’.”
Tetonia’s Schindler is happy to have the challenge within the challenge involving Mayor Johnson and the elementary schools.
“This year Mayor Johnson and I have thoroughly enjoyed our friendly competition between Tetonia Elementary and Driggs Elementary Schools,” said Schindler. “This can and will help unify our wonderful valley residents as we ‘walk together’.”
Victor Mayor Frohlich will also be visiting VES and walking with students, although he is spared the potential discomfort of wearing his ‘rival’ cities’ colors.
“I have had the pleasure to take part in this challenge in the past and am pumped to be able to do it again this fall,” said Frohlich. “Next week I will be visiting VES and challenging each grade level to walk 1000 steps with me to help achieve my goal.”
Witt-Doyle has been very happy to see all three Teton County cities to be involved.
“Teton County has been really involved, and It’s great to see all three involved again this year,” said Witt-Doyle. “Since we really took it statewide in 2017 there’s always been representation from Teton County.”
Witt-Doyle and the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health are happy to be giving away the funds, adding to the credibility of their statewide focus.
“It gives us an opportunity to give back to the community as well since we’re a statewide health organization,” said Witt-Doyle. “Hearing the mayors and seeing what they are encountering and what some of their challenges are is so insightful for us to make sure we’re doing the right thing too.”