HAWKINSVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – More than 1,100 aspiring young athletes crowded Hawkinsville High School on Friday to attend the Fifth Annual Charles Johnson Sports Academy.
“This is what we had hoped,” executive director Jennifer Dobossy said. “We want the kids to look forward to this every year; of Charles coming back to his hometown community.”
Charles Johnson, who plays defensive end for the Carolina Panthers, hosted the event at his former high school in Hawkinsville.
“When I got financially stable to be able to do stuff like that I wanted to see a change in my hometown,” Johnson said. “I’m a firm believer in taking care of your home before you go anywhere else.”
Approximately 10 NFL guests and agent Drew Rosenhaus were on hand to help lead drills and sports clinics that included football, basketball, dance, tennis, and cheer. For its first year, the two-day event also included education activities.
The Charles Johnson Foundation uses the camp to reward graduating high school students from the immediate area with a $20,000 college scholarship. Recipients must show a commitment to athletics, academics, and community service.
Former recipients were on hand to help volunteer, including Chance Warnock, whose love for his autistic younger brother led Warnock to pursue a degree in special education. He currently attends Augusta University and is on the baseball team.
“Thanks to the Charles Johnson Foundation, it’s been great. Thanks to the scholarship, it’s pretty much saved my life,” Warnock said.
Considering the foundation’s growth over the past couple of years, 2016’s Sports Academy will now honor four students, instead of the usual two, with the $20,000 scholarship. This year’s winners are Sylandi Brown (Valdosta State University), Matthew Money (Armstrong Atlantic State University), Anna Claire Gordon (Mercer University), and Taylor Harrell (University of Georgia).
“For me to see that and help them out doing it and them trying to copy and mimic what I’m doing, that’s what it’s all about,” Johnson said.