Sport has a way of bringing together a community. For Dale Johnson, it’s not just talking, it’s a way of life. Dale is the founder of Tillie’s Touch, a non-profit organization that helps the less fortunate through football and education.
“We’ve been around for almost 12 years now,” Johnson said. “Fundamentally our mission is to give children an opportunity in sports and studies. We get a 100% graduation rate and our children go on to higher education. And that’s what it is “
Twelve programs across the region came to support Tillies Touch on Saturday.
Coach Michael Henry and his Henninger Black Knights were one of the programs on display. For him, Tillie’s Touch has a special place in his heart.
“It feels like a family setting for us as we get together,” said Henry. “As these boys grow up together, there’s just this cohesion and love between them that you know is found in every school. It’s not just Henninger’s students. These are all the other schools that participate in Tillie’s Touch and really support the community.
But what Saturday’s event really boils down to is the work being done to support our local youth.
Olivier Beinvenu and Dawt Cung both testify to the work of the programs. The two admit that before joining Tillie’s Touch, they felt left behind. But, thanks to the organization, not only are they on track to graduate from high school, they also plan to continue their education in college.
“It helped me a lot,” Cung said. “Not just for football, but for school. This is why I am so grateful.
“I agree with Dawt,” Bienvenu said. “Tillies touch had a big impact in my life because I came here and had no team to play with. I wasn’t welcome and didn’t feel welcome until I joined Tillie’s Touch, where I found most of the kids… kids who look like me.
And for Johnson, Tillie’s impact on kids like Olivier is the focus of the program.
“It’s awesome,” he said. ” It’s awesome. You know, our goal is for every one of our kids in Tillie’s Touch to graduate from high school.