BrockStrong Foundation donates $ 1 million in honor of teenager

Brock Johnson has always been the smallest on the baseball or football field, but he never let his small size hold him back.

Still, the steroids he took for a rare autoimmune disease he had been battling since he was a baby made the teenager grow slower than his teammates.

His mother, Kristi Johnson, said she recalled once asking a doctor how to pack the medical port Brock had so her son could play football as a college student. The doctor simply replied: Children like him don’t play football.

“But he played it all,” Johnson said. “And he was amazing in everything. If you’ve ever watched him play, you remembered him.

Whether through his athletic talents or his big heart, Brock has left an impression on the Canal Winchester community, where his family lives. When he died in 2015 at the age of 14 from complications from a bone marrow transplant, more than 4,000 people attended his funeral.

It was proof to Brock’s parents that there was still more to do with his legacy.

BrockStrong Foundation keeps Brock Johnson alive

“When we got to the memorial service and 4,000 people were there, we looked at each other and couldn’t let him stop there,” his mother said. “He was only 14 years old and he touched all these people. What would he have done if he had lived to be 100 years old?

This question is at the heart ofthe BrockStrong Foundation.

A collage of photos of Brock Johnson hangs in the Canal Winchester living room of his parents, Kristi and Terry Johnson.

It started as a way to grieve in the months following his death and to use a donation of $ 1,500 that was supposed to go towards Brock’s recovery. But it turned into efforts to have given $ 1 million to those in need in central Ohio and beyond.

Les Johnson, including Brock’s father, Terry, andolder brother Tucker, 23, donated his millionth dollar – for a trip to Yosemite for a sick teenager – last month on what would have been Brock’s 21st birthday.

“We’re trying to do some very meaningful things, but also something that would make the average person feel good,” said Kristi Johnson.

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The donations focus on three areas: the National Children’s Hospital, Itinerant Baseball and the community. Community, she explained, means just about anyone who might need “a little Brock love”.

This includes collecting grocery bills for the people of Kroger, setting up a fitness center at a downtown school, and renovating rooms for sick children. They paid off mortgages and daycare bills, planned Christmas for an orphanage, and stocked a local pantry.

About three years ago, the foundation donated boxes of toiletries and other essentials to David’s Way and Canal Village, apartment complexes in Canal Winchester that serve low-income seniors. .

“With seniors, this is a huge savings for them,” said Avonne Bennett, Services Coordinator for the properties. “Plastic bags, laundry detergent, toiletries – all of these are very expensive. ”

Since then, the BrockStrong Foundation ( has become a lifeline for residents of David’s Way and Canal Village whenever they need something, Bennett said.

“We had a man they helped with rent assistance,” she said. “Right now there aren’t a lot of resources or they have a waiting list or their waiting list is full. It kept someone from being homeless.

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“I think it’s amazing how much they touched the Canal Winchester community,” Bennett said. “They take care of everyone.”

From Robert Downey, Jr. to single seniors, Brock Johnson made friendships, touched lives

Terry Johnson said it was amazing how neighbors, acquaintances and even strangers have felt obligated by Brock and his story to give generously.

Not only are people showing up in droves for the foundation’s two annual fundraising events – a spring golf outing and a Labor Day baseball tournament – but they’ll also do their own random acts of kindness at the name of Brock. The Johnsons print “You’ve Been B-Rocked” cards for people to leave when they’ve paid for someone’s dinner or given an unexpected gift.

“This couple that we met on vacation, we talked to them for five or 10 minutes – and it’s not like we said right away that we lost a child – but we started talking and they told us. sent $ 2,500 last week, “said Terry Johnson.

The Johnson family, including Brock, show up for a photo with Robert Downey Jr. at his Malibu home.  Downey spoke to Brock regularly while he was in the hospital and donated $ 10,000 to the BrockStrong Foundation.

Then there’s the $ 10,000 contribution from actor Robert Downey, Jr.

In the months leading up to his death, Brock and the movie star known for playing Iron Man (Brock’s nickname) struck up a friendship, facilitated by a friend of a friend. The two FaceTimed regularly, and they met in person in Los Angeles the month before Brock’s death.

The actor keeps in touch with Brock’s parents, even leaving them a voicemail message in May on the anniversary of Brock’s death.

“I don’t think he intended to continue having this relationship with this sick kid,” Kristi Johnson said of the actor. “But it was because of Brock… If you knew him, you loved him.”

A BrockStrong sign can be found in the front yard of Kristi and Terry Johnson's Winchester Canal.  The initiative donated its millionth dollar in October on what would have been Brock's 21st birthday.

His father described Brock as someone who has never met a stranger.

“At 8 or 9, he could have a conversation with a 3-year-old or 80-year-old,” said Terry Johnson.

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While Brock was ill, Carmen Boyd, of Zanesville, followed her story on social media as documented by Kristi Johnson. She could never have imagined that years later, she would be the target of a “Brock love”.

When Boyd’s young daughter Brinley was receiving chemotherapy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital for leukemia in 2018, Kristi Johnson brought her gift cards and gifts.

“Then they called a few days later and said, ‘We want to buy lunch for you,’” Boyd said. “Tucker played his guitar for Brinley.”

Even though Brinley, now 10, is in remission, the BrockStrong Foundation is still helping her family. This summer, Boyd’s husband being out of work, the Johnsons handed him a check for $ 5,000 to help pay his mortgage.

However, Boyd said it was the emotional support and love she felt from the couple that had the biggest impact. When Brinley was particularly ill and no visitation was allowed, Kristi Johnson sent a Nationwide Children employee she knew to their room to pray with Boyd.

“He came to sit in Brinley’s room for two hours,” Boyd said. “The most important thing BrockStrong did for me was not monetary. They are amazing people, who turned life’s greatest tragedy into a positive turn for so many people. ”

To honor their son, the Johnsons and the BrockStrong Foundation are participating in 11 Days of Kindness in December, including three days dedicated to the donation of 4,020 rolls of wrapping paper throughout their Canal Winchester community.

Helping other parents of sick children and those who have lost children has also been a big part of the BrockStrong Foundation. Kristi Johnson said one of her long-term goals with the organization was to buy a cabin in a place like Hocking Hills where families struggling with pediatric illness or death could take comfort.

“This is one way to fix the problem (Brock’s death),” she said. “We took a terrible situation and we are doing our best.”

Running the association is a welcome distraction for the Johnsons at times, but more importantly, it is a way for them to feel close to Brock and honor the life he has lived.

“To continue his legacy, this is the greatest thing he has given us,” said Terry Johnson. “Brock continues to have a much bigger legacy than Kristi and I will ever have.”

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The good life

Twice a month, we paint a portrait of a central Ohio (or a group in central Ohio) whose actions make the world a better place.

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