Our Founder's Story

It all started with a single shoe shine box.

Dan Perkins, Founder

When Dan Perkins was ten years old, he received a ten cent per week allowance. He wanted more and was told he would need to earn it. Perkins had a friend who shined shoes so together they made a shoe shine box for Perkins. He shined shoes in the downtown area of his hometown, Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  Young Perkins wanted to maximize his efforts and approached the owner of a local car wash and asked if he could offer his services to the patrons waiting for their car. Impressed with this young entrepreneur, the proprietor told Perkins he could not hold up the car owners once their car was completed.  “No problem,” thought Perkins until he noticed the name of the business – Minute Car Wash. It took Perkins three minutes to shine one pair of shoes. Perkins had a solution. Ever resourceful, he employed his friend and together they shined one pair of shoes.

Perkins graduated from Greater Johnstown High School and went on to earn three undergraduate degrees from The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown while working three jobs: UPJ/AV Dept. manager; night time film editor for a local television station and weekend manager at the car wash that helped begin his journey.

Perkins, a Marine Corps veteran, earned a master’s degree from Pepperdine University before starting his own business – MTS Technologies, Inc. Perkins served as the company’s Chief Executive Officer until 2017. He is now retired, working as a consultant and continues to serve as The Challenge Program, Inc.’s Chairman of the Board of Directors.

The Challenge Program Story

The Minute Car Wash proprietor in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, became a mentor and inspiration to Dan Perkins.  As a business owner, Perkins wanted to pay-it-forward to the students of his hometown.

He met with Barbara Grandinetti, who at the time was a school board member for Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown. They had a common objective: Inspire high school students to stay in school, achieve their best and be ready for the world beyond – To Believe, Reach and Achieve. Together, they developed a real-world concept – reward students who go above and beyond with a financial incentive.

In 2003, they implemented the inaugural Program at Bishop McCort High School, presenting cash awards to students for their success. The creative motivational aspect was well received. Perkins and Grandinetti quickly realized this concept would work around the region and The Challenge Program, Inc. was formed. Grandinetti was named Executive Director and is still with the organization.

Perkins and Grandinetti have strengthened the workforce component of the Program connecting businesses and education to prepare students for the future and retain youth within the regions of the businesses’ interests. They have proved over and over that a business can best demonstrate to students the relevancy between high school habits and their future.

The Program awards students in five categories: Attendance, STEM, Community Service, Academic Improvement and Academic Excellence. The Challenge Program, Inc. has participating high schools in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. Since its inception, The Challenge Program, Inc. has reached well over a half million students and has awarded more than $4.5 million.