GoHawkeye Foundation Gets Nonprofit Status
Originally Published in the Telluride Daily Planet
Wednesday, January 31, 2015
By Heather Sackett, Editor
In 2007, Michael “Hawkeye” Johnson began raising money for the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program by thru-hiking his way across North America. Since then he has raised $43,000 for the nonprofit organization. But he realized that if he really wanted to continue making a difference in the lives of disabled athletes, he would have to start a nonprofit organization of his own. That’s why late in 2014, Johnson took his website gohawkeye.com and created a 501(c)(3) called the GoHawkeye Foundation. The decision took some soul-searching, Johnson said. He moved to Mountain Village in 1999 after an early retirement from the Connecticut Department of Corrections and was enjoying racking up 100-plus days on snow a year.
“I was reluctant for the longest time,” Johnson said. “But if I want to continue it, I have to go this route.”
Johnson now has a five-member board of directors, a director of media and a bookkeeper. The nonprofit status will encourage more donations, he said, because donors can write off the contributions as tax-deductible. The organization’s 2015 fundraising goal is $20,000, with $2,500 of that already coming from an anonymous donor. GoHawkeye’s mission statement is to provide support to adaptive organizations and individuals through financial aid, outdoor experiences and filmmaking meant to inspire people of all abilities. GoHawkeye is already deep into its first project as an official nonprofit. An essay contest asked people with a physical disability to write about how a handcycle would change their life. Out of the stories, GoHawkeye chose Danielle Watson, a paraplegic who survived a nearly 300-foot fall. Watson has learned how to ski using a monoski and now she will learn how to mountain bike using the handcycle that is currently being built by Crested Butte company ReActive Adaptations. In the spring, a camera crew will tell her story and plans to film her cycling the Kokopelli Trail in Moab for a short movie called “Falling into Place.”
“She has a great attitude,” Johnson said. “Her essay was about being appreciative of the small things she may have overlooked before.”
GoHawkeye has also purchased another off-road handcycle for TASP. Johnson said the board had an informational meeting in November and will now begin charting the course and laying out a plan for the organization’s direction. Johnson wants GoHawkeye to provide scholarships for TASP programs and eventually he wants to branch out beyond TASP and support other adaptive organizations as well. He would also like to continue giveaways through contests, like a $7,500 prosthetic leg that will help an amputee ski bumps or bike. Previously, Johnson had raised money for TASP as a one-man trekking machine, hiking the Colorado Trail. He has earned the Triple Crown of long-distance thru-hiking, twice completing the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Johnson has always enjoyed giving back to the community. On Tuesday morning he was waiting for his ski lesson for the day to show up, a 21-year-old woman with Down syndrome.
“I have a good, lucky life and I like giving back,” Johnson said. “I can still ski 100 days and give something back. It makes me happy to do that.”