Who We Are

We provide new athletic shoes to students in Kalamazoo County public elementary schools at no cost.

About Us

We are a non-profit dedicated to providing a NEW athletic pair of shoes to children in Kalamazoo county grades PreK-5th. Our mission is driven by passionate staff and volunteers of this great community and funded by private donors, businesses, foundations, and corporations. 

There’s a moment that happens when a child gets a NEW pair of quality shoes. Their faces light up and their eyes smile. They wiggle their toes and flex their feet. In this moment, they are empowered to put their best foot forward.

These actions speak of joy, confidence, excitement, and so much more. We organize ourselves so that we can give as many children that moment as possible. 

Everything we do is in service to our youth in Kalamazoo County and we couldn’t be more proud or grateful to be supporting this community. 

Who Is Eligible For New Shoes?

Students in Pre-K through 5th grade at any Kalamazoo County public elementary school.

A child in pink shoes draws with chalk on pavement, focusing on sketching a heart shape.

Learn more about our work

Best Foot Forward: Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Journey

First Day Shoe Fund is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion to effectively empower our youth and communities, starting with distributing quality athletic shoes.

  • We welcome youth, volunteers, and employees of all identities and backgrounds, understanding that all of us have unique needs.
  • We celebrate the empowerment, dignity, and joy of every child, providing them with fitted, high-quality shoes.
  • We commit to continually examining our practices, communicating transparently with our community, and adapting to better serve all children.
  • We invite you to join our transformative journey in creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future. 

Our Team


Maggie Hesketh

Executive Director

Gloria Koernke

Program Coordinator

Board of Directors

Leatrice Fullerton

Board President

Liz Semaan

Vice President

Lynn Kelly-Albertson


Steve Davis


Clayton Bates

Fund Development

Jason Heystek

Finance Committee

Jennifer Carson

Program Chair

Lynn Chio

Program Committee

Rebecca Rooy

Marketing Chair

Salina Johnson

Marketing Committee

Stacy Jackson

Board Development

Tim Rayman

Finance Committee

Our History

In 2004, Valerie Denghel was volunteering in the Kalamazoo Public Schools Woods Lake Elementary when she encountered students on a daily basis who didn’t have proper shoes for school. And so it began.

First there was one pair of shoes. And then another. And then yet another until the basement of her home was filled with new shoes for students. Since there was no sign of the need diminishing, First Day Shoe Fund was born.

Since incorporating in 2006, First Day Shoe Fund has been providing new athletic shoes to preK- 5 students in Kalamazoo County schools through several distribution events. 

With the cooperation of Kalamazoo Communities in Schools, local public school districts faculty, staff and administration, and the overwhelming support of countless community organizations and volunteers, First Day Shoe Fund has grown from a grassroots initiative into a strong, local non-profit.

Not only do new athletic shoes foster self-esteem in students, thereby improving their school performance; these shoes also allow students to participate in healthy activities both in and out of school. 

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