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Meghan and David Johnson pose with their almost 2-year-old son, DJ, who inspired them to launch the Mission 31 Foundation.

FEATURES

Lending Hands

By Riki Altman-Yee and Talyor Transtrum

Photography by Scott Foust, Shot on Location at Wrigley Mansion

10.24.18

Meet the next generation of altruists—the movers, shakers, givers and go-getters who are rocking the Valley’s nonprofit world.

TECH CRUNCH 
The Johnson Family’s Mission 31 Foundation is helping hospitalized children and their families get wired.

As a running back for the Arizona Cardinals, David Johnson knows the value of mobility. And as the mother of a newborn with a medical condition, Meghan Johnson remembers the hours she and David spent at the hospital, under extreme stress. So when The Johnson Family’s Mission 31 Foundation team approached them with the idea of a roaming electronics cart for hospitalized kids and their families, he says making it a reality was a no-brainer. Phoenix Children’s Hospital got the first David’s Locker, which was packed with video games and iPads that can be used on its isolation floor free of charge. “The technology can be used for a variety of reasons, such as paying bills, providing a distraction during treatments, doing homework and much more,” David explains. “Since opening David’s Locker in April, over 7,200 children have had access [to it].” The Johnson Family’s Mission 31 Foundation has received overwhelming support—especially from the Arizona Cardinals and its executive board members—which has allowed the nonprofit to provide resources to seriously ill children and their families. The Johnsons opened a second David’s Locker in September at Cardon Children’s Medical Center, and they expect to deliver more carts soon from the generous donations received at their recent Johnson Family: Agents of Change fundraiser at Mountain Shadows. “We’re so thankful,” David says. “Both of us are equally passionate about children and helping our community.”

BENEVOLENT BEAUTIES
For mother-daughter duo Susie and McKenna Wesley, philanthropy runs in the family.

“I’ve learned everything from her,” says McKenna Wesley. She’s talking about her mom, Susie, who she takes after in more ways than one. Both began their careers as models. Both have successfully transitioned into another career—Susie’s been a Realtor at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty since 2000; McKenna runs The Bubbly Blonde, a widely followed fashion and travel blog. But both are also prolific philanthropists in the Valley. “I’ve served on just about every committee there is and served on most of the major boards in town,” says Susie. She’s not kidding. Throughout her philanthropic career, Susie has raised over $10 million in community funds, served as a Phoenix Heart Ball committee member for 20 years, co-chaired the O’Connor House Evening of Music, chaired the Phoenix Theatre Applause! Gala, co-chaired the Arizona Science Center Galaxy Gala, served as Barrett-Jackson VIP Liaison since 2008 and was recently honored as a Phoenix Theater Woman Who Cares. McKenna serves on many of the same boards and uses her following to give attention to causes close to her heart. “Being able to see how much my mom has taught me that you can build anything from nothing,” says McKenna.  

Funari’s kids—Eli, 12; and Eve, 6—volunteer for ACFC by hosting lemonade stands and coin drives, and donating toys. “They have a passion for helping children with cancer just like I do,” Funari says.  “And, as a mom, to see your children embrace the same passion as you is so fulfilling.”

YOUTH GROUP 
A devastating loss inspired Chrisie Funari and her kids to help families fight cancer.

Chrisie Funari took her 18-month-old daughter to a doctor in 2009 and got news she never expected to hear: Ava had stage 4 neuroblastoma. For the next four years, her family would spend thousands of dollars helping Ava fight for her life. “My parents nearly went broke flying her everywhere to get the best care,” Funari recalls. Desperate for resources, but also empathetic toward others experiencing similar situations, Funari says she recalls thinking, “I need to help these families. If the parents don’t do well, the kids don’t do well.” After Ava passed in 2013, Funari started Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children, raising $75,000 at her first event. Today ACFC’s annual budget is $450,000, helping more than 300 families with everything from social and emotional support to financial support, which often covers medicine, rent payments and airline tickets. The organization also has a fleet of therapy dogs for in-home visits, and it provides a “sunshine pack” containing iPads for kids undergoing treatment and their siblings. On Dec. 8 ACFC will celebrate its fifth anniversary with a family-friendly event at The VIG in North Scottsdale, and Funari hopes to raise enough money to build Ava’s Tree House, a space where families can hang out and enjoy various activities. Funari, who keeps in touch with them from the initial diagnosis through treatment and years beyond, says she is determined to help whomever she can. “It’s probably my way of dealing with my daughter’s death,” she explains. “I feel so sad but so honored.”  

HEART-HITTER
Nick and Amanda Ahmed are Striking Out Poverty one home run at a time.

Through the Striking Out Poverty Initiative, Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed and wife Amanda are giving back using the game that has given them so much. For every hit Nick makes this season, a pledged amount will be donated to Food for the Hungry—a Phoenix-based international nonprofit that works in some of the poorest areas of the world to provide sustainable food and clean drinking water. On top of donations pledged by supporters of Nick’s campaign, the couple is donating $100 of their own money for each hit as well. After being introduced to the nonprofit in 2017, Nick and Amanda instantly became fans of their work. The organization “truly invests in the people and communities, and helps them become self-sustaining and thriving communities on their own,” says Nick. “They really love people!” So far, the Ahmeds’ campaign has raised nearly $30,000 this season—funding two different water projects in the community of El Mogote in the Dominican Republic. To support the campaign, “Pledge! Pledge! Pledge! (pledgeit.org/nick-ahmed-2018)” says Amanda. “The more money we raise with fans, the more projects we can fund together.”

WEARING IS CARING
Fashion meets philanthropy on Tyler Butler’s blog, Giving in Style.

For fashion blogger Tyler Butler, doing good and looking good aren’t mutually exclusive. Via her blog and Frontdoors Media column, Giving in Style, Butler shares stories about people, brands and organizations that positively impact society—from a fashionable perspective, of course. “The purpose of my blog and column is to highlight an aspect of fashion that has a strong correlation with philanthropy,” says Butler, who formerly served as the head of global corporate social responsibility at GoDaddy. “Ultimately, I hope to inspire others to find their own stylish niche where giving is concerned.” Philanthropy isn’t just a trend for this fashionista. As the founder of 11Eleven Consulting, Butler helps other businesses incorporate visionary principles, diverse perspectives and sustainable practices. An active philanthropist, Butler is also involved with many charities throughout the Valley, but developed perhaps the most personal ties to the American Heart Association after her mother passed from congestive heart failure. In the past, she’s served on the Go Red for Women advisory council and currently serves on the Phoenix Heart Ball committee. “Getting involved in the community is much easier than many people might think,” she says. “I recommend first searching your heart as to what cause areas you are passionate about, as this should drive your decision.”