A Will and a Way
Brianna Johnson â€™11 helps others in need
Brianna Johnsonâ€™s crushing handshake provides strong insight into how she and her family have raised more than a quarter million dollars to help children with physical disabilities. Built on determination and enthusiasm, the Brianna Fund has given 42 children in the Greater Springfield area money for wheelchairs, walkers, and ramps and other home modifications.
Johnsonâ€™s family and friends launched the charity when Brianna was eight to raise money for a van to transport her and her power wheelchair. They soon realized that other children sorely needed financial help. Although Johnson works on the fund year-round, itâ€™s only when she sees all the families gathered at an annual fundraiser that she thinks, â€śThis is big! The fact that kids from 10 years ago are so devoted to helping others is awesome.â€ť
Johnson recently received the young philanthropist of the year award from the Western Massachusetts chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Helping run a charity has steered her toward exploring social justice careers. For now, she puts her experience to use as an aide in the Community Engagement Program of Commonwealth Honors College, where she helps other students find volunteer opportunities. Her understanding of how community organizations function gives her a big on-the-job edge, says her supervisor, Sarah Martineau.
Martineau describes Johnson as a people person, a trait essential in her second job, as a peer adviser. Sheâ€™s majoring in legal studies with plans to graduate in three years. But her life isnâ€™t solely school, work, and community serviceâ€”Johnsonâ€™s other love is music. She has more than 4,000 songs on her iPod, and sheâ€™s swift to point out that theyâ€™re legal. â€śIâ€™m addicted to iTunes,â€ť she says. â€śItâ€™s a problem.â€ť