To help children overcome just one of the barriers to a successful education and comfortable life, over the last 11 years, Happy Feet Equals Learning Feet has put shoes on more than 64,000 young feet. And that includes hundreds here in Caldwell County.

Last year, 404 pairs of shoes were distributed to children in the local school system and to the Special Olympics team. It was the biggest year yet, said Jodie Lamb, chair of the local Happy Feet committee.

"What an impact on our most precious assets, our children," Lamb said.

Since 2013, the Caldwell County Chapter of Happy Feet has been working with resource workers and other community members to identify families who could benefit from the program. The shoes are purchased locally and distributed on an as-needed basis throughout the school year.

The local committee is hoping to raise $7,500 by May this year to sustain the program.

"We now see a need larger than any other year and are asking for your help to meet our goal for 2020," Lamb wrote in a fundraising letter sent to local businesses and individuals. "With the average price of shoes being $30, no donation is too small."

Donations to the non-profit are tax deductible and every dollar stays in Caldwell County. Corporate sponsorships are available for $250.

Happy Feet was started in 2009 by retired Union County coal miner Jerry Baird.

"A child's physical and mental health is a priority of the program," he said. "Not having basic personal items can distract a child from performing well in school. A new pair of shoes can help build self-esteem and a new pair of shoes can also stop children from being made fun of or bullied."

Happy Feet is in 20 communities across Kentucky and southern Illinois.

Lamb said donations to the local program may be dropped off where she works at ABC Finance at 430 U.S. 62 W. in Princeton. They may also be mailed to: c/o Happy Feet Equals Learning Feet, P.O. Box 189, Princeton, KY 42445.

She may also be reached by phone at 270-365-7444 for more information.