Light the Way Scholarship Foundation Hosts Special Fundraising Night

The local nonprofit provides financial and mental health assistance to students and young people struggling to find support.

On December 29, 2016, April Johnson tragically lost her 13-year-old daughter, Angelina, to suicide. In her immense grief, she was inspired to start the Light the Way Scholarship Foundation so no young person would ever again feel as if they were out of options.

“I completely fell apart,” Johnson said of losing her daughter. She later took a job that would allow her to travel frequently and left the Toledo area. Throughout her next four years traveling the country, she would, in her own time, seek out and participate in suicide prevention or bullying awareness events in which ever city she was in.

“I noticed something that disturbed me so deeply,” Johnson said. “In every city I was seeing the same thing, everyone was there with their person’s shirt, myself included, and these were all beautiful children, beautiful young people.”

“It was hundreds upon hundreds of people coast to coast, and it bothered me so deeply at the level that I had to find a way to prevent this,” she continued.

Source of Support

The Light the Way Scholarship Foundation officially began in October of 2020. Johnson was living in California at the time.

The 501(c)3 organization provides students with financial assistance, free-of-charge mental health resources, tutoring and a wide variety of other student support services including food, rides to work and mentorships.

In their scholarship application process, they try to help kids at risk, with trauma, abuse, neglect, disability and hardship or lack of support in their home.

Light the Way’s board of directors is largely made up of mental health professionals. One of which has also lost a child to suicide. Johnson said she chose board members who “would be passionate and fight for the kids just as hard as [she] will.”

Last year, they awarded five local students with college scholarships. Soon after, Johnson decided it was time to return home to Toledo.

“The impression the children made upon me and getting to know them throughout the next couple months and what they needed, what they were lacking, furthered my desire to come home.”

That’s What We Do

At present, Johnson often visits local schools in hopes to bring awareness to the scholarship program as well as the support and mental health resources readily available through their organization.

“I like to see our program as a prevention program,” she said. “We are trying to prevent other kids from leaving in hopes that they’ll overcome their obstacles one by one and gain the tools they need to work through the problem instead of giving up.”

“I cannot promise them false promises, but I can promise that I will do everything I can to try to help them. And that’s what we do.”

Fundraising

In anticipation of their up-and-coming award year, Light the Way will be hosting a fundraising event on May 7 from 6-10 p.m. at The Bunker Bar Banquet Hall located at 1950 Eber Rd in Holland. Not only will there be entertainment, raffles and a silent auction, but certified mental health professionals will also be on hand for any questions or assistance. 

There will be a booth where those affected by suicide are invited to memorialize their lost loved ones.

“They deserve to be remembered, I want people to be able to have that, to honor their lost ones or their struggling ones,” Johnson said.

Entry costs $25 at the door. Food, beverage and raffle tickets will be available for purchase. All proceeds benefit the Light the Way Scholarship Foundation. 

For more information or to donate, please visit Light the Way’s website.