Brian Johnson is a huge college football fan. He’s had season tickets for the University of Alabama for more than 20 years. It was that connection to athletics that led him to Chad Carr‘s story last summer.
After reading more about the Carr family, he started following Tammi on Twitter, leading to him becoming a ChadTough Champion when the foundation launched the program last December.
Now he is championing ChadTough as a virtual runner, meaning he will run on September 24 for the RunTough for ChadTough event remotely from Alabama.
“My hope was to do the virtual run in Tuscaloosa on campus that morning and have that as a part of the regular gameday tailgating activities,” he said. “I would just do that in the morning when the foundation is having the regular version (in Saline, Michigan).”
Johnson is currently the top fundraiser for the RunTough race with $850 in donations. He is working to recruit others to run with him.
“It’s my first time to attempt anything like that,” he said. “Even if it winds up just being myself but I meet my fundraising goal or get other folks involved in awareness, (it’s a win). But I want to turn it into a bigger event.”
Johnson has always donated to various charities, but has never gotten involved to the degree he has with ChadTough.
While college athletics played a big role in catching Johnson’s attention, it was the uncanny resemblance his son, Alex, had to Chad that really touched his heart.
“Last summer he was four, and he and Chad just bore a striking resemblance,” he said. “Blonde hair, crazy kids, just four-year-old little boys. So whenever I could see my son, I could see Chad.”
The reminders haven’t gone away as time has passed. Now Johnson regularly thinks of the Carr family as he’s appreciating the time he has with his now-five-year-old son.
“We go swimming in the pool after I get home from work and go get ice cream before bed,” he said. “It’s things like that I think about that I get to do with Alex that the Carrs can’t do with Chad anymore. That’s tough.
“It’s just an easy reminder for me of their experiences and what they have had to go through. I couldn’t imagine.”
The open hearts of Jason and Tammi Carr have also moved Johnson to action.
“That’s the special and neat thing about them is they can create a personal connection that makes you donate, but then it makes you do more than just donate,” he said.
Johnson has purchased shirts and hats, voted in the Infiniti Coaches Challenge, and made regular donations every couple months. He is the true definition of a ChadTough Champion.
“It would be nice if (my run) could become more of an event with a larger crowd,” he said. “I mean, you could turn it into a school vs. school fundraising event – Alabama-Auburn – or you could make it a SEC event or something. With the connection to college athletics, I think there’s tremendous opportunity to expand it.
“But, for now, I’m just one guy trying to do the virtual run and raise as much money as I can.”
Johnson will undoubtedly play a big part in fundraising for RunTough for ChadTough, but the bigger role is awareness. Taking the ChadTough message to Tuscaloosa will spread the word that Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG, is a monster that has to be stopped.
The money the foundation has raised to date is already making a significant impact in research at The University of Michigan and will continue to do so. No level of donation or participation is too small.
You can join Brian Johnson as a virtual runner by signing up at ChadTough.org/run. Run alone or with friends, organize a small group event, or walk to raise awareness.
Every single bit matters, and The ChadTough Foundation appreciates it all.