HEART: The vital center and source of one’s being…
Friendly, zany, focused, passionate, fierce competitor, creative, fun…
Loving daughter, sister, friend, soccer player, team captain, actress, photographer, endless T-shirt maker, film maker, slob, lover of cheese sticks, friend to all, crusader…
Emily LIVED. She connected people. She made a difference in people’s lives. She was a leader. She had great ideas. She was so funny, always laughing and joking. She was a great friend. She wanted to learn new things. She hated any kind of injustice, unfairness, prejudice and spoke up! She gave the best hugs. She loved to talk and tell stories.
Emily LOVED. Article written January 2009:
It is said that we may entertain angels, unawares, during our time on earth. It truly seems that such was the case, with Emily Howley-Johnson. Emily was the 16 year old daughter of Sheryl Howley Johnson and Dale Johnson. Tragically killed in an A.T.V. accident in Colorado this November, she leaves behind a legacy most would take a much longer lifetime to build.
Wise beyond her years, Emily chose to become an organ donor, not long before her death on November 17, 2008. As a result, Emily saved five lives and improved countless others, even as she lost her own. Through Donor Alliance, www.donoralliance.org Emily gave her heart to a 9 year old boy; a lung to a mother of 2; a kidney and pancreas to a 37 year old man with Type 1 Diabetes; her liver to a 7 year old girl in Missouri; a kidney to a 29 year old woman and her corneas to two others in South Dakota. In addition, bone and soft tissue donations saved many others across the country. Her example inspired her local high school and families across the country to begin a tradition of “Paying it Forward” to help others in Emily’s name.
Emily was one of those kids everyone noticed. This special high school junior was loving to her family, friends, the environment, her school, her soccer team, kids nobody wanted to be friends with and even strangers. Though a fierce competitor on the soccer field “the essence of Emily was love”. “If you put your hand on Emily’s shoulder, she would put her hand on your hand. If you leaned your head on her, she would lean her whole self into you. She was love.”
Born and raised in Colorado, along with her beloved sister, Hanna, 14, Emily knew how sweet her life was from a very young age. Emily loved acting, and when she was just 10, while attending some acting classes in Carbondale, CO, she was invited to Hollywood by the daughter of an Academy Award winning screen writer. Excited, she and her mother and sister made the trip to California, where Emily landed a part in a Public Service commercial promoting fitness, called “Verb, Its What You Do!”, with NFL star, Donovan McNabb. Though she sparked much interest and thoroughly enjoyed her adventure, Emily was not seduced by the lure of fortune and fame. She told her parents she just wanted to return to her life in Colorado. “I LOVE my life. I love my friends. I love my family.” she said. Echoes of these sentiments in her journals have provided endless comfort to those she left behind.
Emily’s love of soccer had her looking for and attending soccer clinics and camps every summer. She attended an NSA soccer camp in Glenwood that lead her to Denmark and Sweden in the summer of 2005. She competed with soccer teams from over 166 countries around the world. She attended a camp in Grand Junction that was run by Shannon MacMillan, a member of the 1999 World Cup winning team. One of the highlights of Emily’s summer was when she saw her hero, Lindsay Tarpley #5 play in a pre Olympic soccer game against Brazil. Her face lit up when she had the opportunity to let Lindsey know how much she admired her.
Emily became an activist at a very young age. She boycotted Coca Cola when she read that the company was not environmentally sensitive to the rain forest and founded the Planet Protectors at age 10 with her best friends. This club would go around picking up trash and spreading environmentalism at the grassroots level. They posted “Save the Earth” signs at school and around town and marched in the parade at “Silt Hey Day”- her hometown’s annual celebration-carrying “Love Mother Earth” signs, wearing like minded T-shirts and giving out candy. In middle school, Emily and her friends organized a dance for charity, raising over $400, which they used to adopt an Indian child named Munmun, providing food, medical care and education for her. She protested her school’s ban on PJ pants and hugging and worked to promote Gay Rights, all before entering high school.
Last March, Emily was invited by her friend, Rachel and family to travel to El Salvador. Traveling to the village of San Jose Villanueva, Emily experienced poverty first hand. She had planned to return for her senior year service project. She wanted to continue the work of volunteers Mike and Susie Jenkins, who had helped the nearby village gain a water pump, fish farm, community center and school. The fish farm was so successful that the villagers had been able to open a restaurant. Emily met families displaced by gang violence and women who had to do their laundry in creeks. It was her wish to help to improve the lives of her new friends.
Emily left behind books and books filled with pages of affirmation of how much she loved her life. She was against drug and alcohol abuse and meanness. She believed in the power of good. Known for speaking out against bullying, Emily was the first to welcome a new student and had the gift of making everyone feel like they counted with her. During the agonizing week when Emily hung in the balance between life and death, her school held a candle-light vigil. Hundreds of kids showed up on a frigid night to pray and tell stories of Emily, before releasing balloons. Her soccer coach called her the heart of the team. Emily’s 5 best friends told of her relentless humor as part of their circle ‘the Six Chix’. Another friend told the story of her disastrous experiment using caramel as shampoo! After Emily passed away, a Celebration of Life was held at her high school, with over 1300 people gathering to remember their soccer captain and homecoming princess.
Emily left her family a gift that can’t help but make one wonder if she had some kind of knowledge that her time with them would be short. She left a series of quotes and pictures, which she recorded, leaving no doubt as to how Emily viewed life. One of her quotes seemed to tap into this wisdom. “We always thought we would look back on our tears and laugh; but never thought that we’d look back on our laughter and cry.” Though heartbroken, Emily’s family is determined to carry on Emily’s example of giving in a positive way.
Coal Ridge High School dedicated Emily’s former soccer field in March, in her honor. Affectionately dubbed “The Pasture” by Emily and her teammates for the dubious practice of spreading manure on in the pre-season; the soccer field now hosts a plaque at each entrance reading: “The Pasture: in honor of Emily Johnson, our friend, teammate and Captain.” A relief of Emily’s handprint will be set into the plaque as well, “for all to reflect and touch hands with Em.”
To use one of Emily’s favorite quotes, ”Everything is OK in the end. If its not OK; its not the end.”