Marshall University alumni discusses Greater Huntington Walks movement


Jesten Richardson

Marshall alumni Andy Fischer discusses the Greater Huntington Walks movement at a student senate meeting Tuesday.

A representative of Greater Huntington Walks discussed the origin and past and future goals of the local movement, Tuesday during a Student Government Association student senate meeting in the Memorial Student Center. 

Andy Fischer, a Marshall graduate who was a member of the SGA during his time at Marshall, discussed Greater Huntington Walks at the meeting and tried to increase student involvement with the movement.

For the last 25 years, Fischer said, he has been operating a financial services business in Huntington, and last year, during a federal audit, individuals who came in asked him how the drug and crime epidemic in Huntington, West Virginia, had affected his business. He said he was taken aback by this, because his business was not involved with these things, and he did not believe any of his employees or customers were either. 

“They had a fear,” Fischer said. “They came into the office after the second day and told me that they could no longer walk from my office on seventh street fourth avenue down to get lunch or dinner. They didn’t feel safe, and you know we do it every day, we never think anything of it, and yes we have people who are homeless, and yes we have some that have other problems, but you know, we don’t consider it a threat from us.”

Of these auditors, one was from New York and one was from New Jersey, Fischer said. The pair told Fischer they had some of the same problems on their streets, but what he said made the difference is that they said that they had heard so much about Huntington. 

“We’re perceived, and have been perceived, outside of our own area as being the most obese city in the U.S., the overdose capital of the U.S., and when people don’t know who we are, that is who they perceive all of us are, and it’s wrong,” Fischer said. 

Some perceptions people have can create a negativity toward Huntington and adversely affect business, employees and students in the area, Fischer said. 

Fischer said he and others decided to work to take back the streets of Huntington with Greater Huntington Walks, a movement that seeks “to create a more active culture in the Tri-State and spark healthy competitions among family members, friends and coworkers,” according to City of Huntington’s website. 

The movement began last year with a goal of getting individuals in Huntington to walk a collective 238,900 miles, the distance that would be required to “walk to the moon,” Fischer said. He said enough people signed up and participated that Huntington was able to “walk to the moon” in about 43 days and to walk back in about 40 days, and the movement has been able to get people involved in other ways as well. 

This year, the movement’s goals is to walk five million miles, and Fischer said he was at the student senate meeting to get Marshall involved in the movement. 

“What I want is Huntington, West Virginia to be recognized as a healthy city,” Fischer said. “I want Huntington, West Virginia to be in the top 10 of the most-healthy cities, not just in West Virginia, in the United States. And I know it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but if we continue to do this, and continue to broaden our circle, we can change that image, that perception, and we can be a healthy, vibrant and energetic city that people and business want to come to.”

Jesten Richardson can be contacted at [email protected].