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New boots bring a ‘bright ray of sunshine’ to North Idaho school

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 17, 2020

OLDTOWN, Idaho – Masked kindergartners lined up Monday morning carrying shoe boxes and wearing “shiny” new snow boots at Idaho Hill Elementary School.

“They are way cooler and way shinier,” Logan Millage exclaimed after swapping his old boots for new ones.

Millage was one of about 113 students who were given new snow boots as part of the “Give Cold Feet the Boot” program. Optum Idaho, an organization that provides behavioral health services in the state, along with North 40 outfitters, donated the boots.

It’s the second annual event that gives students at eight elementary schools chosen by the Idaho State Department of Education the gear to keep them warm all winter.

“I think Optum does an excellent job of being part of our communities,” said Zachary Badger, field coordinator with Optum. “These events just further that ability to partner with not only community providers and stakeholders but those we’re actually serving in our communities.”

For Susie Luckey, principal at Idaho HIll Elementary, hearing her K-6 school had been chosen for the program last spring was a pleasant surprise during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a little bright ray of sunshine,” Luckey said. “This was just really awesome to hear that we would be able to outfit every child with winter boots.”

About 70% of the students at Idaho HIll qualify for free or reduced lunch, Luckey said. The school administration does their best to meet students’ basic needs, often providing clothing, coats, and sometimes food with donations to a student sponsorship program.

Not only were students excited for the new winter gear, but so were their families.

“When we called them to tell them, ‘Oh, we’ll have snow boots for them’ they were really appreciative,” Luckey said. “Sometimes it really makes a difference in peoples’ budgets.”

On Monday students came in small groups to try on their boots. Luckey said one child took off his old boots and said the new ones were better because they didn’t have holes and his feet wouldn’t get wet anymore.

For Patty Arthur, store manager at North 40 in Ponderay, helping the students try on their new boots was “heartwarming,” especially when some children said it was their first pair of boots ever.

“In this crazy world we’re in, this is one of the funnest things I can do today,” Arthur said.

First grader Lula Henderson marched into the room where students were trying on their new kicks with her Disney princess face mask on. Henderson tossed off her light up pink sneakers and pulled on pink puffy snow boots.

“They’re comfy,” Henderson exclaimed. “They feel so soft on the bottom.”

Paraeducator Renee Gamber spent the morning ushering students to and from picking up their boots.

“We have a high-need community and so it’s pretty amazing that this group would come in and do this for our kids,” she said.

Many of the students will wear their boots everyday all winter long, Gamber said.

“Kids have been really jazzed,” she said. “Especially with all the snow we get.”

By mid-morning, the youngest children at Idaho Hill were already putting their new boots to good use at recess. One boy even stomped in a patch of snow on the playground, just because he could.

Editor’s Note: This story has been update to correct the name of Idaho Hill Elementary School.

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