PAYETTE — As winter weather begins to set in, many families struggle to afford cold weather clothing, including winter boots. To help fill the need, Optum Idaho, an integrated health-care company, and the Idaho Department of Education have teamed up with D&B Supply to provide winter boots to children in rural communities. Their campaign has been dubbed “Give Cold Feet the Boot.”
Optum Idaho Executive Director Georganne Benjamin explained the campaign.
“Each year we look for opportunities, especially during this time of year, to give back to the communities that we work with across the state. We identified the need that far too many kids come to school without proper footwear, and that has an impact on their learning ability, it has an impact on the teachers … and it has an impact on their overall health, including their mental health.”
This being the campaign’s kickoff year, Westside Elementary was one of the first four schools to receive this first round of donations. Every Westside student was given a pair of boots and a pair of socks. The campaign also identified rural elementary schools in Blackwell, Jerome, and Plummer, in their efforts to give out 1,000 boots to elementary students across the state.
Students’ feet were measured in advance, after Westside was notified of their eligibility for the campaign six weeks ago.
“We want to make sure they have boots that fit,” said Benjamin.
“We’re looking at more rural, frontier areas because we know that winters are tough in Idaho, especially in some of our more rural areas,” said Benjamin. “That’s why we selected Payette.”
Students got the chance to try on their new boots before taking them home, with some students choosing to wear them around campus right away.
Westside Principal Mary Beth Bennett described the gift of new boots as a great opportunity for her students to winterize.
“That way in the winter, we don’t have kids with soaking feet; Not only are they gonna be warm, they’re gonna be dry,” she said.
Bennett said the boots were a surprise for everyone at the school.
“We were notified in September. I had to measure everybody’s feet and turn that in to Optum Idaho and they worked with D&B to order all these boots. They clearly have a system.”
Perhaps nobody is more grateful for this gift than the parents themselves, with Bennett saying their feedback has been very positive.
“They’re very appreciative; Especially this time of year is a challenge financially for people, so it’s a great gift.”