SneakerHead Santa: Quality Kids and Sharp Kicks
The first thing that stands out is the beard. It’s a long, flowing, beast of a beard. Facial hair with a mind of its own. Certainly not the sort of beard you expect to find in an office setting. The second thing you notice is the flannel. In almost every picture you can find of Damon Gochneaur, he’s sporting a flannel shirt, sometimes buttoned up, sometimes unbuttoned, sometimes with a jacket or a vest over the top of it, but flannel is clearly the first choice in the man’s wardrobe. Beard and flannel, Damon.
Damon Gochneaur became known the soccer world when he and his partner, Michael Hitchcock, decided to start a soccer club in Denton. 2019 will find their club kicking off their first season in the NPSL. The Denton Diablos logo, written about here, is an imposing Demon, arms crossed, ready to administer pain and torture. The looming, shadowy face and the muscle-laced arms scream domination and aggression. Damon is the opposite. His look is hipster meets lumberjack and his kindness goes far beyond the soccer field.
Last year, Damon decided he wanted to give back to his community. And he had a specific idea on how he would do that, rooted in his own childhood. “I grew up blessed, but middle class. I bought myself my first pair of Jordan’s at 22, Paid for all my Copa’s and Puma King’s myself. I know the confidence a fresh pair of kicks provides. I know how much better I played when I had that little edge confidence gives. And I know what it’s like to be picked on for some off brand, worn out, tired sneakers.” With his background in mind, he decided to create a charity to reward the kids in his community who couldn’t afford a nicer pair of shoes: SneakerHead Santa.
His first year, Damon and his charity gave away 8 pairs of kicks to deserving kids. How does SneakerHead Santa find the right recipients for these shoes? To find the candidates, the charity does “work with coaches, teachers & administrators at high schools across the country to find really good kids, who get really good grades, have exceptional behavior, excel in some sort of extra curricular activity and have a significant financial need, whereby a really nice pair of sneakers, cleats, basketball shoes, could make a real difference in their life.”
To some, maybe a pair of nice sneakers is an odd choice, but to the kids receiving the shoes, it’s the world. Gochneaur has seen this first hand. “Every kid we gave them too last year broke down and cried when they got them. Every kid. All district football players, immigrant 10th grade soccer players, didn’t matter, all just wanted a fresh pair of kicks. And I get that more than most.” For kids, those shoes sum up style and taste. Not being able to afford awesome shoes leaves them out of the circle of cool kids. Earning a pair of shoes because they are working hard to succeed is a win-win.
How Denton will do in their first season remains to be seen. Most expansion teams struggle a bit in the beginning, as they work to put together a functional roster and a cohesive support staff. What will be a guaranteed success is this season of generous giving on the part of Damon and SneakerHead Santa. Don’t let the color of the beard fool you, he may be from the North Pole.