Even as his body was weakened by the autoimmune disease that led to his death at age 14, Brock Johnson was the inspiration for a BrockStrong movement that united a community.
What was then just a way for neighbors, classmates and friends to support Brock and his family is now a nonprofit organization -- the BrockStrong Foundation -- that has donated more than $440,000 to various causes since it was established in 2015.
"Honestly, it has been such a saving grace for me," said his mother, Kristi Johnson. "I spent so much time with him so that when it was all over, I am like, 'what am I going to do with myself? What's my purpose now?'
"This has really gotten me through the worst time of my life."
During a funeral service for her "awesome and amazing" son at the Canal Winchester High School football stadium that was attended by more than 4,000, Johnson said she realized the family had to continue to "spread the good" that brought so many people together.
"So everything we do, we try to focus around Brock and things he loved," she said.
"He was giving, and he made a difference," she said of her son. "He never gave up, and he always had something positive to say."
The BrockStrong Foundation usually divides the donations it receives among three areas: the community, Nationwide Children's Hospital and travel baseball.
So far this year, the foundation has given away $152,000, including a recent $15,000 donation to the Canal Winchester Food Pantry to pay off the mortgage on its new building at 80 Covenant Way.
Canal Winchester Human Services Director Penny Miller recalled mentioning at the building dedication -- which Kristi and Terry Johnson (Brock's father) Johnson attended -- that she had hoped the debt would be paid off so the mortgage on the building could be burned.
"A few days later, the Johnsons invited me to lunch and presented me a check to pay off the mortgage," Miller said. "It was a very thrilling, very emotional and very unexpected moment."
Kristi Johnson said her family does a lot of volunteer and charitable work with the food pantry, including a Brock Walk food drive every year. When she heard about all the behind-the-scenes efforts involved with the pantry, she asked the BrockStrong Foundation board to approve the donation.
For the Johnson family and the BrockStrong Foundation, October is a special month they call "Brocktober" in remembrance of Brock's Oct. 19 birthday.
On that day, the foundation performs 11 random acts of kindness -- 11 because that's the number Brock wore on his baseball jersey.
This year, 130 people helped with those acts of kindness, which included leaving $100 tips for everyone who worked at the Waffle House where the group ate breakfast; delivering doughnuts to the Canal Winchester and Pickerington fire departments; shopping for residents of David's Way in Canal Winchester, an affordable housing complex for people age 62 or older or who have mobility issues or physical handicaps; randomly paying for groceries for people coming in and out of stores; handing out $10 to people coming out of Walmart; and giving cafeteria workers in Canal Winchester schools dinner gift cards.
In November, the foundation will provide Thanksgiving dinner to families in need, and in December, Johnson said, "We will give out things for 11 days: wrapping paper, gift cards, free pizzas, etc. We do not have all the days planned yet."
In January, there will be a gift-card drive with the Canal Winchester High School girls basketball team and Sycamore Creek Church to benefit children on the 12th floor hematology/oncology unit at Nationwide Children's Hospital and their families, she said.
Funds for the foundation are generated from an annual golf outing, a baseball tournament and donations that come in through the nonprofit organization's website, www.brockstrongfoundation.com.
Johnson said she hopes the foundation someday will have enough money to build an indoor athletics facility and name it after Brock.
In the meantime, she said his family and friends are determined to continue to spread the joy that was the symbol of "B-Rock's" life.
"We just want to do something good in the community, especially in a world where there is just so much negative," she said. "We just want to be an unexpected goodness -- and hopefully, it is contagious."