Our mission is to use music, dance, motivational speaking and other interactive performance to inspire youth to be true to who they are, to be their best selves and to be an example to family, friends and community.


The vision of The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation is in direct response to the growing number of young people that are losing hope. Our vision is to fill that void and strive to rebalance the perspective of our young people; to empower the strong to stay strong, to empower those circling the drain of low self-esteem to reverse the cycle; to open the eyes of the bully and empower them to be a force for good in their own life and in the lives of others.



The Problem

The problems that face teens today are increasingly filled with pressure from media, friends and at times family members. The problems are quickly become very destructive not only to the teen but those around them. There has been lots of talk about programs that start with the word Anti. These include anti-drugs, anti-alcohol, anti-bullying, etc. Although these are important, The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation feels very strongly that when a more positive approach is taken, the positive results will be more impactful and occur more rapidly. We also feel that the changes that can occur through positive messaging will be long-term. When a teen feels empowered and has the ability see the positive impact they can have as they reach their full potential, they can then become a hero. The truth is, ALL teens are heroes, we just need to help them realize this and then watch them accomplish amazing things.

Statistics that support the Problem:

  • 160,000 students stay home from school everyday due to bullying. (NEA)
  • 30% of students who reported they had been bullied said they had at times brought weapons to school.
  • A bully is 6 times more likely to be incarcerated by the age of 24.
  • A bully is 5 times more likely to have a serious criminal record when he grows up.
  • 2/3 of students who are targets become bullies.
  • 20% of all children say they have been bullied.
  • 20% of high school students say they have seriously considered suicide with the last 12 months.
  • 25% of students say that teachers intervened in bullying incidents while 71% of teachers say they intervened.
  • The average child has watched 8,000 televised murders and 100,000 acts of violence before finishing elementary school.
  • In schools where there are bullying programs bullying is reduced by 50%.
  • 12. Bullying was a factor in 2/3 of the 37 school shootings reviewed by the US Secret Service.
  • Approximately 20% of the students report experiencing cyberbullying in their lifetimes.
  • Mean or hurtful comments (13.7%) and rumors spread (12.9%) online are the most common types of cyberbullying.
  • Adolescent girls are significantly more likely to have experienced cyberbullying in their lifetimes (25.8% vs. 16%).
  • Studies have shown that obese children are 63% more likely to be targets of bullying. Gay youth are also significantly more likely to be bullied, with lesbians experiencing bullying at 3 times the rate of other youth.
  • Each year, U.S. teens experience as many as 850,000 pregnancies
  • By age 18, 70 percent of U.S. females and 62 percent of U.S. males have initiated vaginal sex.


Here are Some of the Shocking Sexting Statistics:

The percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves:

  • 20% of teenagers overall
  • 22% of teen girls
  • 18% of teen boys
  • 11% of young teen girls ages 13-16

The percent of teenagers sending or posting sexually suggestive messages:

  • 39% of all teenagers
  • 37% of teen girls
  • 40% of teen boys

Other eye opening statistics:

  • 15 Percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude or seminude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they only knew online.
  • 48 Percent of teenagers say they have received such messages
  • 71 Percent of teen girls and 67% of teen guys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent or posted this content to a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • 21 Percent of teenage girls and 39% of teen boys say they have sent such content to someone they wanted to date or hook up with.
  • 44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say it is common for sexually suggestive text messages to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.
  • 36 Percent of teen girls and 39 % of teen boys say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.
  • 51 Percent of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images; only 18 % of teen boys cited pressure from female counterparts as a reason.
  • 66 Percent of teen girls and 60% of teen boys say they did so to be “fun or flirtatious”; their most common reason for sending sexy content.
  • 52 Percent of teenage girls used sexting as a “sexy present” for their boyfriend.
  • 44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say they sent sexually suggestive messages or images in response to such content they received.
  • 40 Percent of teenage girls said they sent sexually suggestive messages or images as “a joke.”
  • 34 Percent of teen girls say they sent or posted sexually suggestive content to “feel sexy.”
  • 12 Percent of teen girls felt “pressured” to send sexually suggestive messages or images.

More Issues:

Causes of Teen Stress

Teen stress can come from many different areas: it depends on what contexts the child moves in and what the expectations are for him or her. Here are some causes of teen stress.

  • The Changes of Adolescence—Developing faster or slower than most of one’s friends can cause tensions because the teenage years are a time when being like others and liked by others is so important. As the teen transitions and hormone changes take place, teens can be stressed by feeling out of control and losing a sense of self.
  • Family Issues—Tensions between parents, separation or divorce, parental infidelity, alcoholism or drug abuse in the family, poverty, or parents who are not involved with their children’s lives may all cause stress for teens. If a child is being verbally or physically abused or is a victim on incest, stress will be only one facet of a much larger set of issues.
  • Another family issue that causes teen stress is parents living vicariously through their children. When children have to not only fulfill their own dreams but have all their family’s hopes resting on their shoulders, this can weigh heavily on them.
  • School—For students who have difficulty in school, whether or not they have a learning disability, school can cause a lot of stress. For students who aspire to goals beyond school that depend on excellent grades may also feel very pressured.
  • Social Issues—The ins and outs of friendship and dating often cause stress for teens. Hoping for acceptance, and even love, and trying to balance one’s own developing personality with other teen’s perceptions and expectations is challenging. Teens worry not only about their own problems, but about their friends’ problems, and this can cause stress. If a teen is bullied, whether in person or via cyberbullying, this is likely to cause both stress and distress. Having an argument with someone can also cause stress.
  • College Applications—The whole future lies open before the teen graduating high school, but so does the task of persuading a college to help the teen get there. This is a critical activity, and one for which many teens feel unprepared. The long waiting period for replies causes stress for both teens and their parents.
  • Transition—All the transitions of adolescence can cause stress. From making the transition to high school to learning to drive to holding down one’s first job to—in many cases—sharing a room with a stranger when starting college and dealing with the increased responsibility to moving to a different city or town to the pile of responsibilities that fall on a teen’s shoulders when they turn 18 even the normal, expected transitions of adolescence can cause teen stress.
  • Fear—Living in a neighborhood with a high crime rate or a drug problem, or living in a generally safe neighborhood, but having been mugged or robbed can cause fear, and fear causes stress.
  • Sorrow—The loss of a loved person or a pet can lead to both grief and stress.
  • Responsibility—Having to care for others when one is still growing up oneself can cause stress. This can result from caring for younger siblings, a disabled or substance abusing parent, or a failing grandparent.

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Stress

People young and old react differently to stress. Some get physical symptoms like diarrhea and tension headaches, while others show it in their mood, growing snappy or withdrawn or angry. Teens may develop healthy coping strategies on their own or need help to direct their activities when they feel stress. For example, temporary avoidance of something that is stressful could be taking a break from a difficult problem set in math to shift focus. Long-term avoidance may lead to failing to hand in the assignment on time. Even though the same strategy is employed, in the first case it is useful, but in the second, detrimental.
Other signs of teen stress include withdrawal; crying; picking fights; loss of focus and diminishing accomplishment;, change in eating or sleeping patterns, particularly loss of appetite and disturbed sleep; moodiness or anger. Extreme stress can lead to thoughts of suicide.

Help for Teen Stress

The first level of help for teen stress is simply having a way to express what is going on. This means both having language to name the feelings and having a safe place to vent one’s feelings. The first can be gained most easily from parents who discuss their feelings openly, telling their children when they feel stressed and, as appropriate why, and what they do about it. The second can be provided by a parent, sibling, friend, mentor, or even a journal or diary that the teens knows is a private place for reflection.
Certain activities may help relieve stress. Playing a sport can help, but so can other physical activities that one can do alone, like practicing a tennis serve, or just throwing a ball against a wall. Distraction can also help, whether playing a video game or something else that requires concentration, like chess.
Sometimes professional help is needed. This may start with the child’s pediatrician or school guidance counselor. For stress issues that are not responding, a therapist may be the next step.
Source: Confronting Teen Stress
Source: Bullying

What is school bullying?

Bullying includes a wide variety of behaviors, but all involve a person or a group repeatedly trying to harm someone who is weaker or more vulnerable. It can involve direct attacks (such as hitting, threatening or intimidating, maliciously teasing and taunting, name-calling, making sexual remarks, and stealing or damaging belongings) or more subtle, indirect attacks (such as spreading rumors or encouraging others to reject or exclude someone).

How does school bullying affect teens who are the targets of bullies?

Teen bullying can lead teenagers to feel tense, anxious, and afraid. It can affect their concentration in school, and can lead them to avoid school in some cases. If teen bullying continues for some time, it can begin to affect teens’ self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. It also can increase their social isolation, leading them to become withdrawn and depressed, anxious and insecure. In extreme cases, bullying can be devastating for teens, with long-term consequences. Some teens feel compelled to take drastic measures, such as carrying weapons for protection or seeking violent revenge. Others, in desperation, even consider suicide. Researchers have found that years later, long after the bullying has stopped, adults who were bullied as teens have higher levels of
depression and poorer self-esteem than other adults.

What are the long-term consequences of teen bullying behavior?

Teen bullying is often a warning sign that children and teens are heading for trouble and are at risk for serious violence. Teens (particularly boys) who bully are more likely to engage in other antisocial/delinquent behavior (e.g., vandalism, shoplifting, truancy, and drug use) into adulthood. They are four times more likely than nonbullies to be convicted of crimes by age 24, with 60 percent of bullies having at least one criminal conviction.

Peer Pressure

Teen peer pressure is the influence a teen’s social group has on him or her. Peer pressure is a part of life for everyone, but it can be an especially strong influence during the teen years when peers are very important to a teen’s identity. This means that teens need to learn to handle peer pressure, and to recognize when it is positive and when it is negative.

As adolescents enter the teen years, they usually begin to focus more on their peers or friends. The desire to fit in with peers can be a very strong influence on teens. Peers influence most aspects of a teen’s life, including how teens dress, what music they listen to, and what kind of activities they are involved in. Peer pressure can be direct or indirect, but it is almost always present. Learning to handle peer pressure helps a teen mature and learn positive ways to get along with others.

Peer pressure is not always bad. Good friends can encourage teens to do well in school, get involved in positive activities, volunteer, eat healthy foods, and avoid drugs, alcohol, and other risky activities. Friends also help teens learn good social skills and better ways to communicate and work out problems, and give teens good advice.

Even pressure to do good things can be bad for teens, however, if they don’t learn to say no when they need to. For instance, a teen may need to say no to going to a movie if he or she has homework that needs to be done. Always going along with what others want can cause a teen to have lower self-esteem, and to give up things that are important to him or her.

Negative peer pressure is when teens feel pressured to do something they know is wrong, such as smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or stealing, or something they don’t want to do such as cutting class or having sex. Teens may be tempted to give in to negative peer pressure because they want to be liked or fit in, they are afraid of being made fun of, or they want to try something other teens are doing. Negative peer pressure will remain a part of a teen’s life into adulthood, which is why it is important for teens to learn how to deal with it.

Some things a teen can do to handle peer pressure include:

  • Decide before you get into situation what your values and standards are.
  • Choose good friends who share your values. Good friends use positive peer
    pressure to help you be your best self.
  • Avoid situations where people are doing things you don’t want to do.Think about your reasons for doing things: Are they good reasons? Are you being true to yourself and your values? Think about what the consequences will be of your decisions and actions, such as if an activity might harm your health or get you into trouble.
  • Practice ways to say no – come up with excuses if necessary, such as that you don’t want to get in trouble, damage your body or mind, or risk blowing your involvement in sports or academics.
  • Talk to your parents or a trusted adult about the kinds of peer pressure you face and listen to their advice.
  • With your parents or another trusted adult, come up with a code word you can use to let the adult know that you need help getting out of a bad situation but can’t talk about it.

Remember that if just one teen stands up against peer pressure, usually others will join him or her, and learning to handle peer pressure gives teens more confidence
and maturity.

Teen Drug Use

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics as part of the United States Department of Justice, the most common subject of substance use is alcohol. While this may not be illegal for adults, it is important to remember that, for teenagers, alcohol use is considered illicit substance abuse. After alcohol, marijuana is the most used drug amongst high school seniors.
Following alcohol and marijuana, in order of popular use, are:

  • Other opiates
  • Stimulants
  • Sedatives
  • Tranquilizers
  • Cocaine
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • Steroids
  • Heroin

How teen drug use is viewed by students

One of the things to take into consideration is how risky students feel drug abuse is. For the most part, students report that drug use can be fairly risky. Teen drug addiction is considered high risk in terms of cocaine and heroin. High school students have become less concerned about LSD in recent years. But one of the most marked differences is the change in sentiment regarding teen marijuana use. Since 1987, the number of high school students that perceive marijuana users as presenting a risk to themselves has dropped from 75% to right around 50%. Increasingly, marijuana is not considered dangerous. Alcohol has even less of a stigma attached to it.

Availability of drugs

One of the issues right now is the availability of drugs to high school students. The Department of Justice teen drug statistics report that 83.9% of students say that it is easy to obtain marijuana. Indeed, drugs are easy for teens to obtain, with these percentages of students claiming they could conveniently lay hands on:

  • Amphetamines: 49.6%
  • Cocaine: 47.1%
  • Barbiturates: 41.7%
  • Crack: 37.5%
  • LSD: 28.7%
  • Heroin: 29.7%
  • Crystal meth: 25.1%
  • Tranquilizers: 23.6%
  • PCP: 21.0%

The Department of Justice teen drug statistics also reports that 25% of students in high school (grades 9 through 12) reported that they were offered drugs on school property. Male students reported drug offerings at a higher rate than the female students.
One of the best ways to help your teens stay away from drug use is to be involved in their lives. Showing interest and encouraging activities, as well as showing that you care can be effective ways to foster open communication and express your expectations that your teenager will not become involved in substance abuse.

Teen Sex

It is no secret that teenagers in the United States are likely to be sexually active. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that by the age of 20, nearly 3/4 of teenagers have had sexual intercourse. But, the CDC reports, that number is declining. Among seniors in high school, the number of teenagers who have had intercourse has dropped to 60.5 percent, from 66.7 percent in 1991.

However, the Guttmacher Institute reports that the rate of teens that have had intercourse before the age of 15 is higher in the United States than in other developed nations. One study by the American Public Health Association, put the percentage of teens that had sex by the 9th grade at 33 percent. The CDC reports that today’s adults report that only 16 percent had sex by age 15. While the incidence of sexually active teens may not be going up, they are having their first sexual experiences at a younger age.

This presents an interesting question: why are teens in the U.S. engaging in sexual intercourse earlier? The answer may lie in what teenagers themselves believe about sex.

  • Sexually Active Teens and Peers: The American Public Health Association (APHA), reports Psychology Today, did a study and found that one of the biggest reasons that teenagers engage in sexual activity is because they think their peers are also having sex. Peer pressure is a factor in the sexual landscape for American teenagers. Even if their peers really aren’t having sex, the perception that they are encourages some teenagers to become sexually active. Many of the teens that were sexually active reported that most, or nearly all, of the other teenagers in their grade had had sex – even though this wasn’t the case in reality.
  • Teen Sex in Media: According to the American Social Health Association (ASHA), one of the factors that increases the perception that peers are having sex is media content. Teenagers that watch sexual content in the media are more likely to overestimate the amount of sex their friends and acquaintances are having. They are also more likely to feel permissive of sexual activity and multiple partners.
  • Teen Sex Issues: Teenage girls have more interesting challenges. The APHA study found that the earlier a teen girl became sexually active, the more likely it was that her partner was older. The younger the girl, the larger the age gap with her partner. APHA found that the gap in girls who lost their virginity by age 12 usually had partners at least five years their senior. This is troubling, in that it indicates that older partners may pressure young teen – and even preteen – girls into having sex.
  • Teen Oral Sex: One of the sexual behaviors increasing amongst teens is the incidence of oral sex. 50 percent of teenagers ages 15 to 19 have engaged in oral sex, reports the CDC. That number increases to 70 percent when the oldest – 18 and 19 year olds – are taken out of the mix. The main reason that oral sex is increasing among teenagers, some think, is because it is perceived as safer than intercourse. Additionally, with the rise of interest in virginity and movements to “save” themselves for marriage, many teenagers consider themselves “technical” virgins if they have not engaged in intercourse. Oral sex doesn’t “technically” count as losing one’s virginity.
  • This behavior, though, is not entirely out of the ordinary. Indeed, the incidence of teen sex doesn’t appear to be increasing. The CDC did a study of adults, and found that only 15 percent of them waited until 21 to have sex. This means that most of the adults that are worried about their kids having sex most likely had sex themselves as teenagers.
    Perhaps of greater concern is the fact that teen pregnancy has not abated. The Guttmacher Institute points out that the United States has a much higher rate of teen pregnancy than any other developed nation. Planned Parenthood places this trend squarely on the shoulders of the current push for abstinence-only sexual education. Teen pregnancieshave not gone down in the meantime, but diseases like Chlamydia and syphilis are making a comeback in some states.
  • Teen Condom Use: Interestingly, protective practices seem to be catching on in younger students. The Child Trends Data Bank reports that among sexually active 9th graders, condom use is at 75 percent. This is encouraging. However, as students get older, they seem less likely to engage in this protective behavior; only 55 percent of 12th graders use condoms. Is it because by senior year many teenagers are down to “steady” partners and engaging in monogamous sex?
  • This may be the case. The Guttmacher Institute points out that 9th graders in the United States are more likely to have multiple partners, in addition to being more likely than their foreign counterparts to engage in sexual activity.
  • Teen Sex Talk: APHA maintains that the best way to encourage protected sex, as well as limit early sexual activity in teenagers, is to provide a supportive environment. Openness about sex and sexual issues, as well as supportive discussions of family values, can help teenagers make better informed decisions about their sexual activity.

Talk to your teen about sex. You can help them learn the teen sex statistics and teen std statistics. This could help prevent a teen pregnancy or STD. Sexually active teens are at risk and should learn about teen condom use.

Source Links:

Peer Pressure Sources:

  • Girls and Boys Town, “Peer Pressure” [online]
  • SAMHSA, Family Guide, “Peer Pressure: Good or Bad” [online]
  • SAMHSA, National Mental Health Information Center,
  • “Preparing Youth for Peer Pressure” [online]
  • Healthline, Ken Wells, Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of
  • Children’s Health, 2006, “Peer Pressure” [online]

The Solution

The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation is a non-profit foundation providing channels of empowerment for middle and high school youth through motivational speaking and performance as well as other forms of entertainment.  The intent is to become a trusted, centralized resource for schools, churches and other youth focused organizations for the positive and healthy development of teens and young adults throughout the world.  An “all-in-one” for effective youth oriented speakers and performers as well as provide resources and networks for leadership training, mentoring, counseling and peer counseling.  The foundation will also publicly recognize and award grants to organizations and/or individuals who utilize the arts, in family friendly ways, to unite teens, families and communities.

The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation’s goal is to foster within the individual a positive sense of self-worth that will, in turn, promote positive relationships with peers and family, build strong interpersonal skills, and reassert a sense of hope in the future, thus generating a ripple effect throughout their community.  By instilling a sense of individual and personal responsibility, The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation will empower youth to follow through on a path to adulthood with a sense of purpose, accomplishment and love and respect for those who are different from themselves.

Today’s youth are faced with powerful and influential forces that can cause enormous damage to themselves, their family and friends. We have seen the amount of attention that bullying has received yet there seems to still be quite a problem with it. We can see how are youth are targeted by producers of commercials, TV, radio, music, magazines and website with their “glamorizing” of things that can cause self-destructive behavior and attitudes without consequences. All of these things can lead a youth to walk down paths where bad decisions are made and they end up with a negative self-image. This then perpetuates destructive behaviors emotionally, physically and psychologically.  When this happens, many times youth try to pull their peers in with them, becoming themselves the negative influence. The outcomes from this can be devastating in many ways with the worst of them suicide.  When a youth feels that no one understands them and at the same time, they have no positive influences in their life, they lose faith in themselves and those around them.

The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation is an organization that is in direct response to the growing number of youth that are losing hope, faith and passion. We want to help fill the void by providing examples that they can relate. There is something very powerful about knowing others have gone through what you have gone through. There is a bond that is created that if cultivated, developed and strengthened, amazing things can happen. As we work toward helping youth feel empowered, they can then make a positive impact on society.


The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation will focus primarily on middle school to high school youths. This age group is particularly problematic, yet highly impressionable and a perfect age for mentoring to be effective.


Over time, The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation will become an international hub of invaluable resources for young people, their families, their leaders, aspiring mentors and their community at large.




When you search the word Empowerment on Google you get over 49,400,000 results. The definition of empowerment is  to equip or supply with an ability; enable. It is our goal to help youth find that inner empowerment which will lead them to a happier and more successful life. Check back here often for great thoughts, comments, quotes and stories that can help you feel empowered. At the end of the day, all the motivation in the world won’t do anything unless YOU make the decision to step and reach your full potential. You can do it, you are a hero, time to find that inner hero and make a difference.

Great Quotes

“Before taking the road of self-fulfillment, one must walk the path of self-acceptance.” Justin Young

“Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story” Lester Bangs

“The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. ” Felix Adler

“When you find what makes you happy, be thankful and share it with someone else, happiness should not be hidden.“  Seth Saunders



Founder & Chief Inspiration Officer

Justin and his amazing wife Ashley have three children, Justin, Madi and James, who truly light up his life. Justin has over 25 years of professional experience in the entertainment, media and creative arts industry.  He has lent his voice as an announcer/actor to companies such as ESPN, ABC, Disney, Hardees, Piccadilly Café, Liberty Tax, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, PODS Moving and Storage, Monster Energy Drink, Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream as well as narrations for corporate training videos and power points, sales presentations and video games.  Graduate of the Hollywood Film Institute and certified Director and Line Producer.  Justin is also a teen acting and vocal coach, a published singer/songwriter, music producer and served as the Musical Director for Broadway Disney’s national pre-release production of The Little Mermaid.

Click here for Justin’s Pink Shoe Moment

Check out Justin’s professional speaker’s page: NationalSchoolSpeaker.com

Email Justin at Justin@pinkshoehero.org

Book Justin to speak at your next event by emailing us at booking@pinkshoehero.org


Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer

Seth Saunders has been married for almost 15 wonderful years. He and his wife Amber have 3 amazing boys, Hunter, Carson and Kellen. He loves spending time with his family. Seth has over 12  years of experience in the field of higher education.  Currently serving as the President of South University Virginia Beach Campus.  Seth has earned an Associates Degree from Brigham Young University-Idaho (Ricks College) a B.A. from Brigham Young University in Communications, an M.B.A. in Global Management as well as a Master of Arts in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix.  Seth has traveled around the world helping people positively improve their lives. He speaks Spanish fluently which allows him to share his message with an even broader audience. Seth has a deep passion for working with the youth. He loves them and loves to serve with them. He leads by example in all that he does. He currently is on the Board of Directors for the Urban League of Hampton Roads as well as the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce-Virginia Beach Division. He also is a member of the Rotary Club of Hampton Roads and loves their motto of “Service Above Self.”  He was recognized as one of the top 40 under 40 Business Leaders in the Hampton Roads Region. He has been a keynote speaker for various public and private institutions and has successfully acquired a network of influential professionals and individuals from many different walks of life.

Click here for Seth’s Pink Shoe Moment

Checkout The Heroes Blog

Email Seth at Seth@pinkshoehero.org

Book Seth to speak at your next event by emailing us at booking@pinkshoehero.org

Joe Leonhardt Pink Shoe HeroJoe Leonhardt

Joe Leonhardt currently serves as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at PlattForm Advertising. He is also Co-Founder of MPACT Group Inc., a progressive higher education services company located in Castle Rock, Co. Leonhardt spent nearly two decades working in high school student recruitment, admissions and executive enrollment management at various higher education institutions, and has a passion for speaking to and motivating youth.  Leonhardt earned a Master’s Degree in Strategic Management from Indiana Wesleyan University, has been married to Melodie for 22 years and has two sons Scott (21) and Matthew (15). Leonhardt also leads the greeter/welcome ministry at Plum Creek Community Church.

Email Joe at Joe@PinkShoeHero.org

Darrell Ieremia Pink Shoe HeroDarrell Ieremia

Darrell and his bride, of 20 yrs., Anne, have six children, who enjoy being outdoors, playing soccer, basketball, vacationing, and rugby. He has volunteered with the local chapter of the BSA (Boy Scouts of America) as the Scout Committee Chair and donates time and financial resources to local charities.  Darrell graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelors degree in Applied Sciences, with a focus on Pacific Island Studies. His experience has taken him all over the world from Asia to Europe; some of his favorite places on earth to visit are Vietnam and a Colombia. Darrell has over 17 years of business experience in international markets and currently owns consulting companies helping US companies take their business to international markets.  Having lived and worked in different countries, Darrell has seen many economic influences on the family and believes that an education is key for a family to break the cycle of poverty. He sits as the chairman of the board for the consulting company currently and is an entrepreneur at heart.  Darrell has spoken to hundreds of people internationally during his career, presenting to them business and finance models to help them become self sufficient in their respective countries.

Email Darrell at Darrell@PinkShoeHero.org


Years ago, an 11 year old Justin Young, founder of the Pink Shoe Hero Foundation, found himself in a bit of a pickle.  You see, on one hand, he was a preteen boy, finding his way into young manhood, realizing that girls were actually cute and didn’t really have cooties (as he had been led to believe), that increasing testosterone levels were causing the voice to crack — along with other interesting changes — and on the other hand, he was discovering… he liked pink!  And the one thing he wanted more than anything, was a pair of pink Converse high tops.

Pink was a “girl” color!  And the only pink thing he owned was a pink surfing T-shirt, which was acceptable because it had cool, manly surfer designs on it, and even that was playing it too close to the line; but when he saw those pink sneaks in the store window, he knew he would be a trend setter because “how could anyone resist the power of the coolness that was the pink tennis shoe?”

It took a while to talk his mom into buying him a pair, because even she knew what the end result would be.  Once she realized that the only way to shut Justin up about the pink shoes was to buy him a pair, she gave in, but not without negotiating with him first.  If his mom was going to get him the shoes, it was going to be a pair of cheap knock offs from the discount shoe store.  Justin agreed to give up his dream shoe, the pink Converse high top, for a pair of generics with the hope that one day he’d find a pair under a Christmas tree or next to a birthday cake.  For the time being, he would just paint the Converse logo on.

The day came.  Justin never felt more cool, more hip, more pleased with how he looked; he beamed with self-confidence; he was happy.

Then the teasing started.  The other kids didn’t know what to think.  It wasn’t brutal, nasty teasing, but teasing nonetheless.  For a while, Justin let the jokes and the degrading comments roll off his back, but after days and weeks of the other boys laughing and name calling, the adrenaline from  his trend-setter dream could no longer sustain him and eventually, he gave in, took off the shoes and put them away.  It was easier for him to fit in with what everyone else thought was cool, than to put up with the daily dose of name calling, whispering, laughing and snickering.

He was content fitting into their “normal,” but disappointed to see the dream fade as he tucked a part of himself back into the shadows of his closet.

It wasn’t until a family trip to England and Scotland the summer before his senior year of high school that Justin learned a lesson that would eventually change his life.

While staying in London for a few days, then venturing out to tour the countryside, and all the historic sites, hopping from one bed a breakfast to another, Justin did his best not to look like a tourist.  How embarrassing.  Tourists are so not cool.  While touring one of the English castles, he tried so hard to fit in, that when someone asked him if he knew where the bathroom was, he spoke to them in his best British accent.  “Top of the road and to the left.”

He was miserable.  Yeah, he liked seeing all the historic places, but didn’t enjoy it because he was too preoccupied with making sure everyone thought he wasn’t a “real” tourist.

During a visit to the ruins of Dunnottar Castle in Scotland, the ruins were so cool that he asked for the camera and would take a picture here, then there, then ask his sister to take his picture, then he’d take her picture; he even took pictures of signs that read “Mind Your Head” because he thought that was a funny way to say “Watch your head.”  For the first time during the entire trip, he was beginning to have fun which prompted him to decide:

“I’m a tourist, everyone knows I’m a tourist, so why not act like a tourist?”

Once Justin decided to stop trying to be a know-it-all local and be the tourist he was, the whole trip changed, not just for him, but for everyone.  Justin was happy.  He enjoyed every minute of the trip, which made the trip that much more enjoyable for his family.

He didn’t realize the lesson behind the experience until over a decade and a few kids later.  When asked to perform for a local youth group, he thought of his elementary school experience with the pink shoes, then he remembered the England trip and every experience throughout his life when he was truly happy… and when he was not.  When he was doing the most good for others… and when he was not.  And it was at those times when he was the most happy, the most at peace with himself and with others, was when he was being true to who he was.

Once you embrace who you are on the inside – if you’re a nerd, be a nerd; if you’re a jock, be a jock – you will undergo a remarkable transformation and not only save your life, but you’ll have the power to save others as well.  Transforming into the very hero you’d been waiting for.


Q: What is The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation

A:  The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation is a non-profit foundation, 501(c)(3), providing channels of empowerment for middle and high school youth through motivational speaking and performance as well as other forms of entertainment.

Q: Who is your target market?

A: Our main target is youth ages 13 to 19 or 6th grade to freshman in college. We also target those who work with youth, parents, leaders, teachers, etc.

Q: What does “nonprofit” mean?

A: Nonprofit means that money received comes from donors and contributors. As such, a nonprofit is considered a charitable organization. There are financial benefits to both the nonprofit and those donate. It also means that the money received is put back into the organization to help fulfill its mission.

Q: How did PSHF start?

A:  It began as the brain-child of our founder, Justin Young.  (For a video of how this “brain baby” came to be, see Justin’s Story.)  Justin approached Seth Saunders with the idea, and the dreams, passion and realities of each founder collided in a very strong and powerful way. Knowing that each of the founders had such a desire to help empower today’s youth to make a positive impact on society helped to ensure PSHF’s fate as a reality.

Q:  So, are you guys a non-profit organization?

A: We are a non-profit organization or foundation (see official IRS letter). Our goal is to generate the resources necessary to invest back into our youth and those who support today’s youth. Through our programs, scholarships, resources and support materials, we want to provide opportunities to those who are ready to become tomorrow’s heroes today.

Q: Where does the name/title “Pink Shoe Hero” come from?

A: It came from the personal and real life experience of foundation founder, Justin Young.

Q: Is PSHF a “religious” organization?

A: We are an organization that believes in helping all young people and their leaders regardless of religious or cultural background. We recognize that each of our personal belief systems are a big part of who we are and PSHF strives to respect such diversity of belief.  The principles PSHF teaches are universal.  And although we have speakers/performers on our roster who adapt this universal message to religious audiences, we are not a religious foundation or ministry.  Many of the principles we teach cross over the boundaries of culture and religion, but our aim is to also make our best effort to adapt our message according to the demographics, i.e. experience, cultural background, beliefs and understanding, of each audience.


Q: How are the donations used?

A: The money donated to the foundation will be reinvested back into the foundation. This can range from providing materials that support our message and mission to public relations. Outside of volunteers, we have support staff, so funds will be used to employ others. We also have scholarship funds and funds that will help provide our services to lower income communities. Every dollar will be used to spread hope, empowerment and happiness in our youth.

Q: Can I donate to PSHF?

A: Yes. Click here to Donate through Dwolla now or mail in your donation to The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation 4001 Virginia Beach Blvd #117 Virginia Beach, VA 23456.

Q: What is Dwolla and why are they your choice to process my online donation?

A: Dwolla is a new payment network that works with your financial institution to offer a cheaper, safer, and overall better payment experience.  We chose Dwolla  because any payment transaction whether it’s $15 or $15,000 costs only $0.25.  That means the benefit of your donation will be maximized and not have a portion of it be swallowed up in credit card and payment processing fees.  Not to mention micro-payments of $10 or less are free.  So every penny of your donation goes directly to the foundation and not a third party.  Click here to find out how Dwolla serves the community.

Q:  I like Dwolla but I don’t have a bank account in the United States, or I like them, but I’m still a little uneasy about using a company I’ve never heard of/ or I want to use my credit card instead — I need to earn those sky miles! — is there any other way for me to donate?

A: We totally understand.  And even though we encourage you to use and trust Dwolla as we do, we know that not everyone is going to prefer it which is why you can donate using your credit card through PayPal by clicking here, or send a check or money order (payable to PSHF) to The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation 4001 Virginia Beach Blvd #117 Virginia Beach, VA 23456.

Q: Is my donation tax-deductible?

A: You will need to obtain the advice of a tax expert to know if your donation will qualify but we are a certified 501(c)(3).  Click here to view our documentation.

Q: Can I donate in honor or memory of someone?

A: Absolutely.

Getting More Involved

Q: What can I do to help, or how can I get involved?

A: Learn, live, love and promote the mission and vision of The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation. We want to associate with the best of the best who share our goal to have a positive and lasting impact on the youth. As we continue to grow, we will have many opportunities to serve so please be sure to check out our website and Facebook Page often or contact us directly and let us know how you can fit in.

Q: How can I bring PSHF to my school?

A: Send us a request here with the following information: Your name, your schools name and location, their website, what it is you feel would best benefit your school and how can you help us make it happen.

Q: How can I work at PSHF?

A: As we grow, there will be many opportunities and we will need the help. We have big plans for this foundation as there are many who are reaching out for help. Check our website and Facebook page often for opportunities.


Q: Will you guys come speak in my community?

A: Yes and if that wasn’t clear YES.

Q: Will a representative from PSHF attend my benefit?

A: Our goal is to get our message out to as many youth and those who support youth as possible. This means participating in many different types of events. We want to support where we can. The key is for those events, groups, associations, etc. to be aligned with the mission and vision of the foundation. If you are wanting us to participate please contact us here.

Q: When are you coming to my town?

A: As soon as we get an invite.  Invite us here.

Performing Group Support

Q: What can my performing arts group do to help?

A: As we continue to grow, we will not only need but want all types of performing groups that can help us fulfill our mission. We want to promote the message more than just an act so we will be selective while inclusive.  Feel free to send us a link to a video of your group performing or invite us to your next even for us to review you act.


Q: Can I use the name “Pink Shoe Hero Foundation” for my Benefit or Fundraiser?

A: We want to ensure that we create as much exposure as possible while also protecting our brand. Please send a request to info@pinkshoehero.org.

Q: Can I make my own “Pink Shoe Hero Foundation” swag?

A: No, but please send us your ideas so we can create them for you. We want to support you while also ensuring that the integrity of our brand and message stays intact. Please send us your ideas here.

Public Relations/Media

Q. How do I interview someone from The Pink Shoe Hero Foundation?

A. Send a request to mediarequest@pinkshoehero.org.

Q: I am doing a school project on PSHF. Can you help me with it?

A: You bet. Send us what you are doing and what you need from us and we will see how we can help. Send your request to info@pinkshoehero.org.

Q: Can I send in some of my creative works?

A: Yes, to info@pinkshoehero.org with an explanation of what it is you are sending and for what purpose.

Q: Can you please post my story on your website?

A: We want to create as much interaction with our supporters as possible. As we find ways to get your stories out, we will do so. Please send us your story to info@pinkshoehero.org.


Q: How can I get items to show my support PSHF?

A: Easy! Go to The PSHF Store


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Here is how you can donate using PayPal:

We thank you for your support for the foundation and want you to know that every penny goes towards helping us accomplish our mission.