GOSHEN, Ky. (WHAS11) – If they don't know his name, students have certainly heard his laugh through the halls of North Oldham Middle School.
Wilson C. Johnson has worked for the Oldham County School District for many years as a coach and now as a custodian. He spends his day greeting students and building bonds with the dozens of kids who call him a friend.
“They inspire me to get up and come in every morning. I could be tired as heck but I come in for them and I don’t walk through that door with a frown on my face. I walk through with a smile,” Johnson said.
Leah Sanders, an 8th-grade student, has called Wilson a friend since her first day of 6th grade when he made her feel welcome and excited about starting middle school.
"He's never failed to make me want to come to school. Most of the time I only come to see him if we're being honest,” Sanders said.
Late last year, Leah noticed Wilson wearing a surgical mask at school. After talking with a few friends, she realized Wilson had been diagnosed with cancer.
"My heart sank into my chest. Oh, there is no worse feeling than hearing someone as good as him get such terrible news,” Sanders said.
Doctors found cancer in Wilson’s tonsils. He endured three rounds of chemotherapy and is now beginning radiation. Still, he makes his way to work at North Oldham Middle School every day.
"I started thinking man it really isn't fair and kind of sucks that he has to work throughout this battle,” Sanders said. "Even though I can't take away his pain and his battle, maybe I can take away some of his financial worry."
Leah began an online fundraising effort for Wilson with the goal of reaching $20,000, money he could use for medical and living expenses. In just 5 days, more than $13,000 had been donated.
"Every time I look at her I cry,” Johnson said. "I'm a fighter and I'm going to keep on fighting it because the things that Leah Sanders and everybody has done, it just pushed me even more so to do what I have to do.”
As Wilson began watching the donations mount up, he recognized the names of former students, coworkers and friends. He also saw many names he didn’t know and was shocked to see such generosity from parents he never met.
"I'm sure some of the parents don't even know who I am but they listen to their kids talk about me, it's very inspiring right there knowing that they don't know me but they feel like they do know me,” Johnson said.
"I know that Wilson works so hard for everyone at North and I'm so happy we are taking care of him like he does us,” Sanders said.
Wilson plans to continue working throughout his treatment and use the funds raised to pay medical bills.
To donate to the fundraising effort, click here https://www.gofundme.com/wilsons-warriors.