Danny Gokey fans are no doubt aware that the "American Idol" contestant has drawn strength from the passing of his wife, Sophia, who suffered from a congenital heart condition and died following complications from surgery in July 2008.
Her death — just four weeks before Gokey's "Idol" audition — led him to establish the Sophia's Heart Foundation, which aims to "heal the hearts of children who have been touched by poverty, sickness, disease, broken families and broken dreams." Donations to the charity have provided musical instruments to children in impoverished school districts; supplied food, clothing and shelter to those in need; covered medical bills for the needy; and established 24 scholarships in Sophia's name.
Interest in the charity (and ways to donate) has also led many Gokey fans to DannyGokeyGear.com, a Web site that's selling "Designer eyewear worn by Danny Gokey" and promising to donate a percentage of the proceeds to Sophia's Heart. The only problem? The site has absolutely nothing to do with Danny Gokey.
DannyGokeyGear.com — and the accompanying DannyGokeyBlog.com — are actually the property of Colorado Web Builders, a company run by a Denver Web designer named Joe Monaghan, and are in no way affiliated with Gokey himself, or his charity, though you probably wouldn't know it by glancing at the main page of either site (there is a tiny caveat here). And that has, rather understandably, led to some confusion.
Seems many Gokey detractors see the site as him trying to cash in on his fleeting fame, or that it only lends credence to the rumors that Gokey was close to inking a deal with LensCrafters. None of that is true, according to Monaghan, who started the site as a way of supporting Gokey and Sophia's Heart.
"A couple of us in the Denver area are real big Danny Gokey fans, and we're trying to support him and his charity, so we started the site. We didn't have a lot of money to print T-shirts or anything, so we started focusing on the glasses," Monaghan told MTV News. "We started talking to places in the Denver area that sold the kinds he wore on 'Idol,' because we wanted to work some sort of deal with them. Advertise the glasses on our site, send a portion of the proceeds to charity. Soon, the TV Guide Channel contacted us because they wanted to do a piece on Gokey's glasses, and they figured we'd be the best choice because we'd be donating to charity.
"But at that point, we were having problems with some of the glasses places in Denver, because they didn't carry a brand that Danny wore on the show — Luxotica," Monaghan continued. "So I called FramesDirect, and they were interested in helping us out. So we came up with a game plan — TV Guide would direct the viewers to our site, and we would refer traffic to FramesDirect's site, where they would sell the glasses and donate a portion of the proceeds to charity."
It all sounds well and good, until the confusion started. That led many to notice that the Gokey Gear site was not endorsed by the singer in any way, which, in turn, led FramesDirect to pull any mention of the Gokey glasses from the main page of their Web site. And that's when alarm bells started going off across the "Idol"-sphere. Was this all some gigantic scam?
"To be honest, there's been a lot of misinformation out there. So to clear it up, we're not affiliated with the foundation or Gokey. They didn't ask us to sell the frames for them," Jennifer Cameron, a spokesperson for FramesDirect, told MTV News. "We were contacted by Danny Gokey Gear, and we decided to help out the Sophia's Heart Foundation. It's as if we're doing a fundraiser for them. We're not doing this to make money, and we still intend to donate a part of the proceeds to the charity."
Cameron said that FramesDirect had reached out to the Sophia's Heart Foundation to arrange ways of donating the funds, but the company has yet to receive a response. When asked how much her company would be donating, she said she didn't know, but later e-mailed MTV News a statement that said FramesDirect intends to donate "50 percent of our profit of these frame sales between May 24, 2009 - July 21, 2009 to the Sophia's Heart Foundation."
Monaghan told MTV News that he had received information on how to make a donation from "someone" at the charity, but he has yet to respond to MTV News' e-mailed request for that contact. He did say that he plans on making a donation as soon as FramesDirect sends him a total on the sales of the Gokey Frames (MTV News has also made several independent attempts to contact Sophia's Heart to verify that Monaghan had reached out to them, but those attempts proved unsuccessful), and he added that he never started either of his sites to confuse or trick people, but rather, because he felt a spiritual connection with the "Idol" contestant.
"We've never contacted Danny about our site, but we feel that he would really want this. I'm assuming he's aware of it though, because of all the media attention," Monaghan said. "There's always been a misconception about this site, and I've tried to combat it. I'm going to add a disclaimer to the main page tonight, I promise you that.
"Look, I understand that there's a lot of skeptics out there, but there's no money to be made in this. I invested $500 to 600 of my own money [in the site] and I'll probably never get it back," he continued. "I did this because [Gokey] is my favorite 'Idol' contestant. He's a Christian, I'm a Christian — we both are doing the Lord's work. I'll make that donation, that's for sure."
At press time, MTV News was unable to reach Danny Gokey for comment.
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