MJ93 Foundation board members Sam Johnson and Thomasine Johnson present a check to YMCA of Selma CEO Bill Porter Wednesaday morning. The foundation, organized by Selma native and Cincinnati Bengal defensive end Michael Johnson, made a contribution to the Y's current Why the Y fundraising campaign. -- Tim Reeves

Bengals player Johnson helps out the Selma YMCA

Published 11:21pm Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cincinnati Bengal defense end Michael Johnson is making a push toward the NFL’s Pro Bowl this year. He has spent the first half of the season, terrorizing opposing team offenses — targeting their quarterbacks and running backs — looking to stop them from moving an inch.

But, while he has been in the midst of a grueling NFL season, the Selma native, and his foundation, have found time and money to ensure the place his mother said raised him will help more children like Johnson for years to come.

Wednesday, the MJ93 Foundation, led by Johnson’s mother Thomasine Johnson, presented what was described as a “significant” contribution donation to the YMCA of Selma’s capital fundraising drive “Why the Y?”

The drive is designed to help financially stabilize the YMCA and meet the demands of an agreement reached between the YMCA and two financial institutions to resolve a major portion of the organization’s debt.

If the YMCA is able to raise $1 million by Dec. 31, then the two institutions would eliminate an additional $1 million in debt, thus wiping away roughly two-thirds of the YMCA’s overall debt.

“Michael was pretty much raised at the YMCA,” Thomasine said. “We started Michael at the Y when he was 4-years-old … he participated in all the YMCA programs. He learned how to swim, he went to gymnastics, he would come work out, he would play basketball — I mean, he was raised at the YMCA.”

Foundation board member and Michael’s father, Sam, is a daily visitor the YMCA, and told Michael recently of the YMCA’s struggles and the fundraising campaign.

“It was an easy decision,” Thomasine said of the donation. “Once his dad told Michael about it, Michael said ‘OK, Dad, we’ve got to give some money to the YMCA.’ There wasn’t even a second thought.”

YMCA of Selma CEO Bill Porter said he received a call from Sam about the ensuing donation and “Once I saw the check, and the amount, I was extremely happy.”

Porter said the campaign, which has one month left, has tremendously raised the awareness of the YMCA and its struggles in the community.

“I’m getting a lot of calls — a lot of interest — and donations are coming in a couple of times of week,” Porter said. “We are raising awareness about the YMCA, the need we are in, and a lot of people are stepping up to make sure we don’t lose the YMCA.”

And, as the days tick away on the campaign and the Dec. 31 deadline inches closer, Porter remains confident YMCA leaders will be successful in reaching the $1 million goal.

As for Thomasine, who said Wednesday that when home, Michael continues to visit the YMCA to work out, she looks back on at the YMCA meant to her and her family.

“I don’t know what I would have done without the YMCA; I really don’t,” she said.


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