It wasn’t about image. It wasn’t about publicity, or pleasing a sponsor, or being politically correct. It wasn’t about anyone else but one driver, his family, and hundreds of children they’ll likely never meet. The Jimmie Johnson Foundation, founded by Jimmie Johnson and his wife Chandra earlier this year, was about doing what Johnson, the person, felt was right and just. With a mission statement dedicated to assisting children, families and communities in need throughout the United States, the foundation strives to help everyone, particularly children, pursue their dreams. It was a dream come true for Johnson to make the foundation a reality… and it felt good.
As Johnson felt moved with passion to do something more, to give back, his fans felt the need to follow his example. Not because of anything Johnson, the driver, did on the racetrack, but because of what Johnson, the person, wanted to do, attempting to help the children at Victory Junction Gang Camp through money collected by his foundation. It was an example of pure compassion, and a cause worthy of support for all who could help.
A group of fans, connected mostly by chance and the fan forum at Lowesracing.com, decided to honor Johnson with a birthday gift. What could possibly be more fitting, they thought, than to take up a collection and make a donation to the Foundation to help build the bowling alley at Victory Junction?
The project began in May, once one generous fan offered to undertake the task of collecting and counting the funds sent in. The goal: to raise $1,048 for the Foundation. It seemed like a lot of money for one small group to raise on one Internet forum, but the “Mojo Crew,” as they are called, was certain they could meet their goal. After all, persistence under adversity has been a hallmark of their driver’s success on the racetrack. Surely, it could be done.
All summer long, the donations came in. People sent what they could, from pennies to dollars to lots of dollars, and the total grew. As the money came in, the new total was posted on the forum and celebrated by the Mojo Crew each time. By the Sept. 1 deadline, the goal was met. Five times over.
On September, the two halves of the whole equation – fans and driver – met at Hendrick Motorsports, where the Johnsons were presented with a check, payable to the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, for $5,484.48. It’s hard to say who felt more honored by the experience – the driver or his fans. Jimmie and Chandra Johnson were humbly grateful and openly proud of the effort – by the next day, Johnson’s race team knew about the gift and what it meant to their driver. The small group of fans, who represented so many, from every imaginable background, had accomplished more in a few months than they had ever dreamed.
In the end, the real recipients of the gift are the campers at Victory Junction, who will reap the generosity of Johnson and his fans for years to come. But in a world where every race, every day is broken up into winners and losers, everyone involved in the gift came out a winner of the truest kind.
I’ll leave you with a final thought. What if the fans of every driver honored their favorite as Johnson’s fans chose to do? With the original goal of $1,000, that would, in the Nextel Cup Series alone, inundate various charities with over $40,000 in donations. One driver and his fans made their own history, but if others followed that example – that would be the type of history that keeps on giving long after it becomes part of the past.