Unsung Hero: “My ‘Go-to’” – Julie Johnson and Jake’s Help From Heaven

Julie Johnson (R) with spouse Former Mayor Scott Johnson at a ‘Cantina for a Cause’ fundraiser for Jake’s Help from Heaven in 2017. The 12866.com file photo

{{Editor’s Note: Most Not-for-Profit organizations have a ‘public face’ – usually the founder(s) and/or Executive Director – that serve as spokesperson for the organization to the community at large. Often, they are the only one(s) that the average person will see on TV, or quoted in a newspaper or web article.

But if you ask them, they will tell you stories about the team behind them – the many hard working people that operate behind the scenes – doing the dozens of tasks that make the Not-for-Profit go. These “Unsung Heroes” are driven by their love of the mission. They get their joy from helping others; often volunteering their time without seeking any recognition.

Their only compensation is derived from making someone who is less fortunate’s lives a little easier. That alone makes their stories worth telling. – AG}} 


Jake’s Help from Heaven (JHFH) is a Saratoga Springs based non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting individuals with multiple medical challenges and disabilities. Founded in 2011 by Heather and Brian Straughter as a tribute to a son that they lost, they now service clients in a 100 mile radius, bestowing grants that provide adaptive mobility and cognitive equipment that is life-enhancing; and often life-saving.

Both Heather and Brian are strong, likeable people that effectively communicate their mission. They have put together a team that would be the envy of many Not-for-Profits. A major cornerstone of that is Ms. Julie Johnson, who was there from the beginning. Julie holds a seat on JHFH’s Board of Directors, yet her major contribution comes from her work in the trenches, as it were.

Heather explains: “Julie is my ‘Go-to’ for everything JHFH related. She is always willing to come on a delivery with me, organize applications or stuff envelopes. She loves our families and is always thinking about ways to help.”

“We met 12 years ago,” Julie recalls, “at a gala for The Epilepsy Foundation. We hit it off immediately! There’s just something about Heather and Brian’s warmth that brings you closer to them.”

“Then, of course, Jake passed away,” Julie continued, “and shortly thereafter, they started JHFH and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

I asked her what is her favorite thing to do at JHFH: “I love the overall involvement. On the Board we get many, many requests – sometimes for conditions I can’t even pronounce! But it is a learning process for me. We have a very accomplished Board of Directors with diverse areas of relevant expertise.”

But you can tell by the way her eyes light up when Julie talks about making deliveries with Heather – when a client first receives that piece of adaptive equipment that is going to change their lives – this is the part that gets Julie jazzed up the most…

“So rewarding.” She said, “Recently we delivered an iPad to a client that had a program known as ProLoQuo2Go (an app designed to help teachers and therapists empower kids, who have limited or no speech, with an alternative way to communicate.) It was amazing! In a very short period of time, our client is using the program to tell us his favorite jokes! Can you imagine being able to help someone unlock something that was once deep inside…”

“We deliver all kinds of equipment, and a lot of it has to do with mobility,” Julie notes, “custom bicycles, wheelchairs – so many people need this kind of help, I wish we could grant all the applications we receive.”

Even during COVID, the needs continue – so the deliveries continue!

Heather Straughter (L) and Julie Johnson (R) deliver an adaptive iPad to a happy client. Photos Provided by JHFH

“But it is such a wonderful feeling to be able to help the good number that we do,” Julie concludes. “Consider the day-to-day struggles that they and their families have to deal with.

“If we can lessen those burdens, this makes it all worthwhile.”

A fundraiser for JHFH at Vapor Night Club. L to R: Rebecca Beers, Julie and Scott Johnson, Skip Carlson, Steph and Justin Cash. The 12866.com file photo

Look for the stories of other Local Unsung Heroes Soon – Arthur Gonick – February 12, 2022

the12866.com and JHFH are grateful to the firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King for their assistance in providing this content.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: