Editor's Note: Denny and Dana Hiner have been working on a transition plan to have other people step up and take their place as lead volunteers of the Idiots Club/Jesters of Goodwill. Max and Kelly Fischbach will be the executive directors with the help of a few other volunteers to take on the mission.
In 2014, two retired educators knew the need of children living in poverty. They saw some students wearing the same dirty clothes every day of the week, duct tape holding sneakers together, high school kids sleeping in their cars, working full-time and still coming to school. Children suffering tooth aches who couldn’t afford a dentist. Or they couldn’t be in band due to instrument rental fees.
Danna and Denny Hiner decided to do something to help these children. They had retired in 2011 and 2010, respectively. What moved them to do start the Lake of the Ozarks Idiots Club in 2014?
As Danna explains, on June 14, 2013, Denny had three cardiac arrests, one in the cath lab and two in the operating room during by-pass surgery. That surgery required 26 units of blood products and they had to open him up twice because the doctor told Danna, “he keeps oozing blood.”
Danna continued, “Denny was kept on a ventilator for more than 14 days then a tracheotomy to keep him breathing. The doctor would tell me daily, “He’s taken a turn for the worse. We don’t know if he’ll make it.”
It was touch and go.
“Then, they brought him out of the coma and took out the feeding tubes and he started eating regular food. But on day 24, he had a tear in his stomach and nearly bled out. His blood pressure was down to 43 over 39. The surgeon had to remove part of his stomach to find good tissue to stitch together. I thought I lost him again,” Danna said
But finally, after all this and 40 days in ICU and 60 pints of blood products, on July 22, 2013, Danna took Denny home frail but alive. Over the winter Denny pondered why he survived it all. Why did God keep me here, he wondered?
As Denny and Danna talked about this experience and the why, they decided a charity to help kids in-need might be the answer. But the question everyone wants to know: why the Lake of the Ozarks Idiots Club?
After Danna retired in June 2011, the Hiner’s started going to South Padre Island, Texas, for several months in the winter. One Saturday afternoon they strolled into a beachfront bar and there was the International Idiots Club selling $5 memberships and a goofy t-shirt.
Denny said, “Being a little on the crazy side, we had to join. So, we thought with the Lakefront restaurants here at the Lake and everyone having a fun and crazy time on the weekends, why not an Idiots Club here?”
Denny continued, “In March 2014, Danna and I began. We incorporated Lake of the Ozarks Idiots Club, Inc., got our IRS 501(c)3 charity authorization and received our tax-free status with the State of Missouri. We ordered membership cards and t-shirts.”
As it was May, and a very busy time for Mo’s Special T’s, we had to wait for the t-shirts to be ready. The first Saturday we headed to a Lakefront restaurant Danna asked me, “Do you know what today is?” and I said no. She said it is June 14, one year ago today you had three cardiac arrests. Their first fundraising day was exactly one year from the start of my ordeal.
Danna said, “We started with the Camdenton School District because that is where we retired from. Supt. Tim Hadfield okayed us to work with counselors. We knew we could not know the identity of the children due to confidentiality rules and we didn’t need to know anyway.
Their original thought was to raise $4,000 to $5,000 a year to help some kids at Camdenton improve their self-esteem by providing new name-brand clothes and shoes and helping them participate in school activities that they could not afford.
Denny added, “And nine years later we’ve spent over $1,000,000 helping children in-need. Plus, most all of that money has been spent here in the Lake community, adding to our local economy.”
“We had an idea but without our volunteers from day one, the donors that joined us as we grew, and all of our business partners from retail stores to Lakefront restaurants and our great golf tournament sponsors, the charity would not be what it is today. We have the best volunteers in the Lake area.” Danna explained.
“Also, all the school and social agency people who directly work with these children are a very important part of this charity. They make the requests for assistance which lets the charity know all the various needs children living in poverty have.” Denny added.
These needs include dental care and eye glasses, new back-to-school clothes, weekend (Buddy Pack) food, Dual Credit Scholarships, sports equipment, band instruments, club, trip and participation fees, cars, car repairs, hay for a horse (so a child could be in 4-H), a prosthetic arm and almost anything you can imagine.
Last Tuesday, Aug. 8, Lake of the Ozarks Idiots Club, aka Jesters of Goodwill, delivered 100 pairs of shoes and various hygiene products for 60 children to Camdenton’s Hurricane Deck Elementary School in Sunrise Beach. This request for help was made by Nurse Meagan Hardwick and the shopping was done by Jester volunteers Jenny and Joe Geck.
After only nine years, this delivery included the one millionth dollar the Jesters of Goodwill have spent on children living in poverty in the Lake of the Ozarks community. The Hiner’s are proud that the charity has spent at least $1,000,000 right here in the Lake community. Also, 93 percent of every dollar the charity has spent has gone to help children in-need.
Danna exclaimed, “We don’t know how it happened. We didn’t plan it, but money comes in the mail. I guess people think the charity is doing something right for kids!”
“We don’t solicit our members for money as we don’t even have members physical or email addresses unless the member sends their address to us. The only time the charity actually solicits money in the community is for sponsorships for our September golf tournament,” Denny added.
To conclude, Danna said, “We owe the success of the Idiots Club to our wonderful volunteers over the years, the professionals at schools and social agencies who make the help requests, our retail and Lakefront business partners, our annual members and most important, our generous donors.”
If you would like more information regarding the Lake of the Ozarks Idiots Club, aka Jesters of Goodwill and/or would like to help the charity, check out their Facebook Page or go to: www.LakeOfTheOzarksIdiotsClub.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org or mail donations to: PO Box 1185, Osage Beach MO 65065.