Grand Valley High School rallies around coach |

Grand Valley High School rallies around coach

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Iva Kay Horner/Brush News-TribuneGrand Valley football coach Mike Johnson, center with headset, has had a rough go of it since a Sept. 12 appendectomy. Johnson is shown here coaching his Cardinals against Brush in a Nov. 8 playoff game.

PARACHUTE, Colorado ” If there were ever any doubt that Grand Valley High School teacher and coach Mike Johnson is a widely respected fellow in the Parachute community, that very community’s rush to help out their ailing peer is stomping it out.

Back on Sept. 12, Johnson went under the knife for an appendectomy, and his life hasn’t been the same since. Post-procedure infections have plagued the coach, who’s been in and out of the hospital several times for surgeries and follow-ups the last two months.

Though Johnson, who coaches the football and girls basketball teams at GVHS, never would have solicited it, financial help is on its way. A group of parents came up with the idea of a fundraiser to help cover the medical expenses of a coach who’s always been there for their kids.

On Thursday, GVHS is hosting a spaghetti benefit dinner at 6:30 p.m. in Johnson’s honor. The proceeds will go toward covering his mounting medical costs.

“He’s been such an outstanding community person and everybody loves him to death,” said Trish Epperson, who works in the kitchen at GVHS and helped put the fundraiser together. “With everything going on, we thought the community should come around and help him out for taking care of our kids. He’s been really awesome in that department.”

Johnson’s sister, Kristin Johnson, said her brother was floored by the gesture, although at first he wanted no part of it.

“When I first brought up the idea to him, he said he didn’t want to feel like a charity case,” Kristin relayed. “I told him, ‘You’re not a charity case. You have a community that loves you.’ … He was very humbled. It makes me proud to live where we do.”

Coach Johnson, who’s dropped 50 pounds since his health problems arose, has been working part time and even found his way back onto the sidelines for Grand Valley’s Nov. 8 football playoff game in Brush after helping coach a few games from the booth. He’s also been busy with the girls basketball program, which began practicing last week.

“You can’t keep him away from the court,” his sister joked.

Though he’s slowly working his way back, the coach still has a ways to go before returning to full health. The Parachute community can’t help with that, but it’ll do its part to restore the health of Coach Johnson’s pocketbook.

“We have a lot of people calling saying we can’t be at the dinner but we want to donate,” said Epperson, whose daughter is good friends with Coach Johnson’s daughter and whose son played football at GVHS. “All of the students are going to pitch in and serve. They’re all really into helping out.”

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