CANAL WINCHESTER, Ohio (WCMH) — Brock “B-Rock” Johnson would have turned 19 Saturday.
The Canal Winchester teen stood a foot shorter than many of his peers, but family members recall his big personality and his even bigger heart.
“He was just an amazing kid, who just kind of changed the world the 14 years he was here,” said Kristi Johnson, Brock’s mom.
In 2015, Brock died from an infection after a bone marrow transplant. The 14-year-old battled a lifelong, rare autoimmune disease. Despite frequent doctor appointments, surgeries, and blood transfusions, he maintained a positive attitude and willingness to serve others.
“He was just so good,” Kristi Johnson explained. “And we have to wonder what would have happened if he’d lived to be 40 or 50. We don’t have that option, so the only thing we can do is try to keep it going ourselves.”
Since Brock’s death, family and friends have been celebrating his birthday by spreading positivity. The BrockStrong Foundation, a non-profit founded in August 2015 to continue Brock’s legacy, does so with 11 random acts of kindness every Oct. 19.
“The last thing we’d want is for Brock to be forgotten and because he was such a memorable soul, this day is just an epitome of him,” said Terry Johnson, Brock’s dad.
Saturday, close to 140 family, friends and volunteers planned to spend more than $25,000 on random acts of kindness. In the morning, the group split up for breakfast at several Canal Winchester restaurants. At a Waffle House, they tipped each employee $50.
The entire group then met at Briggs High School in Columbus to hand out more than 250 pairs of shoes to students there.
The high school’s assistant principal Pamela Smith said, “This paying it forward and honoring other kids and just celebrating his birthday… they’re making a huge difference in the lives of other people. I know it’s got to be healing.”
Some of the acts’ locations remained a secret to avoid spoiling the surprise. The Johnsons said several groups planned to cover bills at grocery stores and restaurants and deliver food to neighbors in need.
Brock’s brother, Tucker Johnson, came back home from college in Virginia to participate in the annual event. He said turning the family’s loss into something positive has helped them all heal.
“It’s helped us remember who he is,” said Tucker Johnson, 21. “It wasn’t just a sad story. It was a story about an awesome kid. To be able to live that part out, rather than the tragic part, is really helpful for us to keep going every day.”
The BrockStrong Foundation did not want to collect gifts for the nonprofit during Saturday’s day of giving, but you can learn more about Brock and support his legacy by clicking here.