As the Buena Vista community struggled to cope with last week’s tragic rockslide, a group of eighth-grade students took action to support the lone survivor of the accident, fellow McGinnis Middle School classmate Gracie Johnson.
The rockslide killed Gracie’s parents, Dwayne and Dawna Johnson, and her older sister, Kiowa-Rain Johnson. Two cousins from Missouri also died in the accident.
In response, eighth-grader Sheldon Roth began an effort to establish a scholarship fund for Gracie, who he described as a friend.
Roth’s idea followed a thwarted plan to visit Gracie in the hospital, where she was recovering from a broken leg and other injuries.
“Before, we were actually thinking about going to Denver and seeing Gracie in the hospital. That didn’t work out, so this just popped into my head and we went for it,” Roth said. “The (Johnson) Family Fund had already been started. I thought there was another way to help her … we thought this might help her get into college.”
A call was placed to family spokesman Mike Carr, middle school counselor Amie Urbine was consulted, and the scholarship fund was launched.
Nine students are participating in the effort, Roth said.
The fundraising began last week with an Oct. 4 “hat day” at school, when students paid for the privilege of wearing hats in school. The event raised more than $400, Roth said.
The students are also selling T-shirts, the fronts emblazoned with “STAY STRONG,” the backs stating “#FAITH4 THE JOHNSONS,” a reference to Gracie’s middle name, which is Faith. The gray cloth and blue lettering of the T-shirts represent Gracie’s favorite colors, blue and gray.
The first batch of 100 T-shirts was donated by local business Souled Out T-Shirts. All the adult sizes from that batch have sold out, and only 10 youth-size shirts remain, Roth said. The students already have pre-orders for the next round of shirts.
The Gracie Johnson Scholarship Fund has a Facebook page, facebook.com/Gracieedu, and Roth is working with other students to build a website.
“We just hope it’s enough, and we’re going to try to do more for her if that’s possible,” Roth said.
The shirts cost $10, or $15 for those that need to be shipped. For more information on how to purchase a T-shirt, call Urbine at 395-7064.