For Jimmie Johnson, charity is the rewarding road

By Holly Cain | Posted 3 years ago

With a record-tying seven season championships and 83 wins earned in a 20-year career in NASCAR’s marquee Cup Series, there has been a lot of consistent high-achievement in race car driver Jimmie Johnson’s world.


What has endeared this champion to fans and won over people across the country is not only his penchant for trophy-hoisting, but for his decades-long, strong-hearted generosity. An impact felt across this country.


Doing for others, especially helping children comes naturally to this father of two. Think he’s good on-track, well there are thousands that would argue he’s better off it.


“It just feels right,’’ Johnson told OSDB Sports recently. “I didn’t have much growing up, but my parents were extremely generous with the things that were valuable and important to them and shared that with our neighbors and family friends. I think just growing up in that environment instilled this in me”


The 45-year-old from El Cajon, California, has donated more than $12.4 million to charitable causes – from money to rebuild his modest hometown outside San Diego after wildfires ravaged it; to annual checks to schools in both El Cajon and his adopted hometown Charlotte as well as to schools in his wife Chandra’s home state of Oklahoma.


Johnson has long been involved with Make-A-Wish America, and the decades-long Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope project he spearheaded has given gave away tens of thousands of dollars annually to schools from New Mexico to New York.


The Blue Bunny money bought computers for Florida elementary schools and physical education equipment for California playgrounds. Not only do the schools get the funding to purchase long-needed items, but the students all get a Blue Bunny ice cream party to celebrate.


The Jimmie Johnson Foundation Golf Tournament tallies nearly a million dollars a year thanks to the generosity of supporters, fellow professional athletes and celebrities who admire the driver’s work and strength of his commitment -- that money helping to fund the myriad of charities that Johnson supports.


And as you would expect from an athlete surrounded by technology in state-of-the-art race cars, the No. 48 driver also founded a Team Up for Technology donation program that has made huge impacts to schools across the country with an annual $48,000 grand prize check.


Virginia’s Loch Lomond Elementary, for example, won the money in 2019 for a “technology” upgrade at the school that had only a couple dozen computers for use at the time.


Another elementary school in tiny Dover, Florida – which has 98% free or reduced lunch students – received money that would supply computers to school since an estimated 73% of the largely migrant student popular had no access to computers at home. 


As important and impactful as these gifts are to the hundreds of thousands of school-aged children Johnson’s generosity has impacted, the grin on this champion’s face leaves no doubt about the happiness it brings him. 


“The [racing] series I raced in in my teenage years always focused on children’s hospitals and we would always go in a day early and tour children’s hospitals and pass out hats and stickers to the kids’’ Johnson recalled.


“I can see the difference [taking] time can make to someone let along the financial donations you can make. So, ‘giving,’ shows up in so many ways and I just grew up in a family that was willing to share with others and in my early years of motorsport was just exposed to that. 


“Plus, it just feels good and I’ve kept that going.


“Your accomplishments on track are much more in a selfish lane where on the charitable side of life, it’s a different feeling, fills a different bucket.”


Johnson is filling a different bucket career-wise these days with a transition from NASCAR’s stock cars to the NTT IndyCar Series’ sleek, open-wheel speed machines. It’s been a humble competitive restart for the certain NASCAR Hall of Famer, but he’s enjoying the opportunity to meet new fans and absolutely committed to maintaining his big-hearted generosity.


Weeks into his debut IndyCar season with the championship Chip Ganassi Racing team and Johnson’s No. 48 Carvana-sponsored IndyCar is emblazoned with an American Legion tribute. Johnson debuted the car on the FOX network and the announcement generated the highest donation day in the American Legion’s 102-history.


“[Giving] that support is just something I’m very comfortable with and very used to,’’ Johnson said. 


And a whole lot of others are better because of that.

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