Dannheiser Fund for Kids helps to provide youth with shoes

Inspiration struck Jon Troutman when he least expected it.

“A friend and I were taking one of her young relatives to have fun at SkyZone in Evansville, and he came out of the house in flip-flops. We asked him to change shoes since we were going out of town, and he was embarrassed to say that he didn’t have any other shoes,” Troutman said. “This happened about a week before school was starting in August and I thought it was just sad that in Owensboro, the community where I grew up, that any kid would have to struggle getting new shoes for the new school year.”

That experience hung in Troutman’s mind for years until he was finally in the position to take action to address the situation.

“I decided to start the Dannheiser Fund for Kids in 2019 as a way to help kids get new shoes for the first day of school,” Troutman said.

The nonprofit organization is named for Troutman’s maternal grandparents, Don and Margie Dannheiser. Don was a Navy veteran who served in the Korean War and came home to teach school and coach in youth basketball leagues while Margie was a nurse. They lived in the Evansville, Indiana area.

“My parents also managed to provide us with everything we needed, plus more, but resources could be scarce at times,” Troutman explained. “But, every year, my grandparents would chip in during back-to-school shopping and get all of the grandkids new shoes, so we all had shoes we were proud to wear on the first day of school.”

Don and Margie were known to be selfless and giving people according to Bradley Troutman, Jon’s father and volunteer with the nonprofit organization.

“Don had an account at Gus Doerner Sports because if one of his players or students needed something and couldn’t afford it, he’d just call down to the store and tell them what he needed and the employees would add it to his account,” Bradley Troutman said. “He’d pay the bill himself.”

So, Jon Troutman’s vision for the Dannheiser Fund for Kids was set — providing shoes for kids.

But, he wanted to do more.

“I didn’t want to just give kids shoes,” Jon Troutman said. “That’s great, but I wanted to combine some educational aspect along with shoes.”

Jon Troutman then decided to offer an educational element to providing shoes, and he decided to focus on three core areas, physical fitness, emotional stability and educational awareness.

“I’d worked at the Boys and Girls Club for a long time, so it just seemed like the right move to partner with them for our program,” Jon Troutman said.

The first few years of the program coincided with the global pandemic which threw a wrench in the organization’s plans.

“We weren’t able to help as many kids as we wished because of Covid, but our numbers have slowly picked up each year,” Jon Troutman said.

Last year, the organization had 66 kids complete the program who received a brand new pair of shoes from Shoe Stop as a prize for attending classes and participating in various activities during the classes.

The nonprofit sponsored classes and provided snacks for the kids to have during the learning sessions which were taught by staff members at the Boys and Girls Club. Classes, one to two a week, begin in June and run until about the time that school begins in August.

In previous years, the organization has utilized curriculum from Smart Moves, Healthy Habits and Money Matters. Also in previous years, program participants were hand-picked by the Boys and Girls Club staff based upon a financial need.

But, according to Jon Troutman, changes are coming this year.

“This year, we’re offering the program to every student attending the Boys and Girls Club, so somewhere around 175 kids. And also, volunteers from the nonprofit, mostly my mom and dad, are going to be teaching the classes offered to the kids,” Jon Troutman explained.

This year the organization is set to offer curriculum from the Kids Smart Safety Program.

Once the participant finishes the program, they receive a certificate of completion and an invitation to a Saturday shopping day at Shoe Stop where he or she can choose a new pair of shoes for the upcoming school year.

“We’ll all meet at Shoe Stop on a Saturday morning and let the kids shop for whatever shoes they’d like,” Jon Troutman said.

Jon Troutman explained that he didn’t want to put parameters on the shoes that the kids could choose either.

“I didn’t want to set a dollar limit because that’s the point of letting the kids choose,” he said. “Some kids would choose something like Crocs. We had girls choosing shoes that weren’t the most practical, but they were fun and what they wanted. And some kids would choose the nice, name-brand, athletic shoes.

“I know how important that brand name can be for kids and for them to be able to match their peers, so I want them to be able to get what they want.”

Jon Troutman said that the organization has been fully funded by the family and friends of the family, but the nonprofit received its first grant from a local business this year.

“We received $2,500 from an area business and we were all so thrilled,” Bradley Troutman said. “We can get our message to so many more kids with the help of that grant money.”

The nonprofit’s main goal in the future is to expand and help as many kids as possible.

“Who knows? Maybe we’ll be helping every kid in the state of Kentucky get a new pair of shoes,” Bradley Troutman imagined.

Those needing more information about the organization can check out its website at dhfundforkids.com or the nonprofit’s Facebook page, Dannhesier Fund for Kids.

“And, of course, we’re always looking for donations. Ways to help are on our website,” Jon Troutman said.