Shoes from the Heart, a growing organization dedicated to the growing feet of children, visited Kirksville last Thursday.
Shoes from the Heart, a growing organization dedicated to the growing feet of children, visited Kirksville last Thursday. The group, in partnership with Jamison Street Head Start, joined with a variety of vendors and community members to hold a health fair at the Fellowship Baptist Church.
Although the event encompassed a wide variety of health related topics, the focal point of the day was shoes. Every child enrolled in the Jamison Street Head Start program was eligible to receive a new pair of sneakers.
“What we do is we provide brand new tennis shoes to children in need,” said Donnie Bonuchi, CEO and president of Shoes from the Heart.
“It’s really kind of a neat thing,” Bonuchi said.
For the families in attendance, it was definitely a “neat thing.” Vendor booths, set up by community members, provided attendees with a variety of activities. Coloring pages, fresh popcorn, spin the wheel games and firetrucks were just some of the fun things provided. Children also enjoyed health centered activities, which were given a fun bent. The Walmart Vision Center provided eye screenings and Woodward Audiology, LLC provided information on hearing loss prevention.
The families that attended received a variety of goody bag items, but the highlight of the gathering was the shoes. The recipients couldn’t seem to help but run, stomp, jump and skip as they tried out their new kicks. Shoes from the Heart came well stocked with Batman shoes, Disney princess shoes, and shoes of almost every color. Shoes are, after all, what they do.
Shoes from the Heart was founded in Macon by Bonuchi’s late wife, Cindy Bonuchi, in 2012. When Cindy died in 2015, Donnie took over the operation. Since its founding, Shoes from the Heart has grown immensely.
“It has grown from something that actually started in a Sunday school class…we had a challenge, ‘what can you do to give back to your community, no questions asked?’ and Cindy wanted to help children,” Bonuchi said.
“So we put it together and we raised enough money through two Sunday school classes to provide 65 pairs of shoes to the local Head Start, and that’s how it all started,” Bonuchi said.
Shoes from the Heart has come a long way since those first 65 pairs of shoes.
“Last year we provided over 30,000 pairs of shoes, and this year we’re projected to provide anywhere from 60,000 to 70,000 pairs of shoes,” Bonuchi said.
For the Jamison Street Head Start, Bonuchi and the Shoes from the Heart mission is a blessing.
″(Bonuchi) wanted to work with children to get shoes that fit right, so they can have the things that we offer at the center, like physical activity and the outdoor experience, so they can participate with the other kids,” said Jamison Street Head Start center supervisor Cheri Hemmerling.
“I think that we are truly blessed that Donnie has found us, and Shoes From The Heart in itself has found us, to help some of the low income families that we serve,” Hemmerling said.
Fellowship Baptist Church pastor Larry Gibson was also closely involved in the development of the health fair.
“There are a lot of different places that are represented here today as well as our church, and we’re feeding people,” Gibson said.
“This is all just to show the love of God to people, so that they can understand that there are people that care about (them), every one of these kids is cared about, and these families are cared about. A lot of people donate things to make something like this work and it’s not a government thing, it’s individuals. So, isn’t that cool?” Gibson said.
Shoes from the Heart began as a partnership with Head Start programs, but now partners with a variety of charitable organizations. Shoes from the Heart currently serves in five states and hopes to see continued expansion in the future.