Hunter's Hope

"These words from our friend Soren Staff have now become our rally cry- I won’t be defined by who I am when I’m weak."

Hunter T Johnson was our son, a brother, a father, and a friend. He lost his life to addiction at the young age of 24. We - Tom (TJ) and Beth Johnson - have established Hunter's Hope Seedling Fund in our son's name to assist others who struggle with addiction and associated mental health issues in the Chippewa Valley.

Hunter was a happy child who loved trains, dinosaurs, and animals - especially dogs. As he grew older, he loved the outdoors, especially Lake Wissota, where he lived almost all his life. He loved wakeboarding, hunting, fishing, and canoeing in the Boundary Waters with his friend Devin. He enjoyed documentaries and The Discovery and History Channels. In school, he liked CAD class, where his teachers admired his engineering skills. He was intelligent, but school and structured learning were not his forte. Maybe because his drug use started in middle school and continued for over a decade.

Hunter's addiction stripped away his mother and father's firstborn son; it took the love and companionship of his only brother; most devastatingly, it left his six-year-old daughter without her father, whom she truly loved. "We had hopes of fishing and hunting trips. We see things everywhere, every day that remind us of Hunter and bring us to tears. For years, our relationship with Hunter was strained, but in his last days, we made amends."

Addiction changes the brain's chemistry - it's a disease just like cancer. Heroin is a demon; its grip is fierce. Hunter told us that he "prayed for the release of the pain and fear in his head" and that he wished he could "stop the chaos." Addiction carries a stigma that drug use is a lifestyle choice. But not one addict has ever said, "Today, I'm going to become a junkie and throw away every important thing in my life." But addicts can learn to control addiction through skills learned in treatment centers.

The complexity of addiction is compounded by the overwhelming expenses incurred for treatment and the lack of affordable facilities. Created in memory of Hunter, this fund will be used to help others who face addiction issues in the Chippewa Valley.

Grants will support organizations recommended by fund advisors.

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