by Danny Gokey
Danny Gokey won the hearts of America on Season 8 of American Idol™. Just weeks after his first wife Sophia died from a heart condition, Danny auditioned for the biggest singing reality show on TV based on a promise he made to her. In a moment of great pain, Danny channeled his energy to reach toward the lifelong dream of a music career that he and Sophia shared. Climbing to the top three as a finalist was just one part of Danny’s story.
After receiving the insurance check for Sophia’s death, Danny knew exactly what he had to do with the money. He started Sophia’s Heart, a non-profit organization, to honor the memory of his late wife, but at the time didn’t really have a focus other than helping people. “Giving back was one of the passions for me and my first wife,” he said. “I needed to start Sophia’s Heart because it gave me a lot of hope in a time of loss. It was just one of those things where God was writing my story, and I just had to follow the steps.”
Through a series of events that Danny describes as part of God’s bigger plan, he ended up after American Idol in Nashville, TN where he was signed to a record label after the show. It was there he started to develop his career and his organization. As part of research on non-profit organizations, Danny was given a CD by Matthew Barnett, founder of the LA Dream Center. After listening to the vision and goals of the Dream Center, his own vision started to form, but it wasn’t until after the Nashville flood that everything became clear.
During the flood, the volunteer staff at Sophia’s Heart started a relief center to help flood victims in the Nashville community, providing food, toiletries and day to day essentials for people who had been devastated by this unpredictable tragedy. Realizing that we are all just one unanticipated circumstance away from homelessness started a spark in Danny to help families who are faced with this reality. How to get started on such a big task was another story altogether. Until, a random phone call one day shortly after the flood opened up a whole new world for the organization. A man called, who didn’t know who Danny was and had not seen him on American Idol. He was simply calling charitable organizations with the offer a building donation. After a tour of the facility, Danny enthusiastically said yes! The 77,000-square-foot building, formerly a rehabilitation hospital, was officially donated to the organization in 2010 and the dream building began.
Today, the organization has branches in Danny’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in Nashville. While the Milwaukee location focuses on music and arts for inner city kids, the Nashville location is dedicated to helping homeless families start new and better lives for themselves. By offering room and board, food, classes for kids, training programs for adults, and a music and arts program, Sophia’s Heart has rescued over 75 homeless families off the streets. At Sophia’s Heart the goal is to inspire and rebuild the dream inside of people that has died because of the circumstances of life. If they can have the weight of the world lifted off of their shoulders for just a little while they can begin to see things with a fresh perspective. The staff encourages them to become who they want to be and achieve their dreams!
“Everywhere I go I talk about this,” Danny said. “Of all my accomplishments in life this is my greatest. I just don’t want to be an artist, but a person that is tied to helping people.
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