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C of I students, staff volunteer at Huntington’s Disease walk

At The College of Idaho, students aren’t only mentored to be well-rounded individuals. They’re also prepared to become valued members of society and the local community. And sometimes that includes helping out beyond the campus community.

This fall, several C of I students and staff helped out at the Huntington’s Disease Society of America Team Hope Walk at Veterans Memorial Park in Boise, helping the society put on a successful event that raised more than $15,000.

“These students are so enthusiastic,” said Anne Spencer, the interfaith coordinator for C of I Campus Ministries. “When they come out, they really want to help.”

Spencer was once a genetic counselor at St. Luke’s Hospital, where she did pre-symptomatic testing for Huntington’s Disease (HD), an inherited brain disease that affects about 30,000 Americans. At that job, she got to know a lot of people with HD in the community. So in 2004, she held her first support group meeting for those with the disease.

“That’s been going strong for 11 years now, a lot of good friendships,” she said.

Out of that came the realization that more support was needed, so the support group affiliated with the national Huntington’s Disease Society of America, which helped with fundraising and providing services in southern Idaho. Four years ago, the first Team Hope Walk was held, and the participation has been growing since, with more than 200 runners and walkers this year.

The first year, the C of I International Student Organization helped put on the walk. When it was decided to add a 5K run, the C of I cross-country team stepped up to help mark the course and time the race.

“The students bring a lot of great energy to the event,” Spencer said. “And for the people who are there for the walk, people who are dealing with the disease, they feel that enthusiasm the students bring.”

Another group that helped at the event this year was the C of I chapter of Circle K International, the nation’s largest student-led community service organization. For Circle K President Tran Tran, it was her third time helping at the event. Her fellow Circle K members and she not only helped out at the walk, but also packaged more than 200 bags full of t-shirts and information for each runner.

“I like volunteering in general and helping people,” said Tran, who is also a mentor for first year international students at the C of I.

For Tran, volunteering opens the door to a variety of experiences and the chance to meet and connect with new people.

“I really treasure connections, so it is those connections with new people that I’m looking for when I volunteer,” Tran said.

And it’s those real life experiences, Spencer said, that help remind students of why they’re in school, especially those looking to go into the health profession. Students can get caught up in tests and papers and forget they want to be a doctor to help people, to be a vet to help animals, to become a counselor to make the world a better place. And volunteering can help shift that perspective back into focus. It is as Rabbi Joachim Prinz once said, “Neighbor is not a geographical term. It is a moral concept.”

“In some ways, that kind of sums it up, right?” Spencer said. “That people are here to look out for each other. I hope the students get that sense while they’re at the College.”

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit