Seniors to honor AAEC student killed by distracted driver

Conner Johnson, 18, was killed by distracted river. So, his classmates plan to alleviate his family’s financial burden with a casino night fundraiser. (Photo courtesy Cameron Decker)

Conner Johnson, 18, was riding his motorcycle one night in late March when he was struck by a distracted driver. After suffering major injuries, the teen, who was a senior at Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center - Estrella Mountain (AAEC-EM), passed away in early April.

To honor the memory of Johnson and alleviate his family’s financial burden, the AAEC-EM senior class is holding a casino night fundraiser from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 17, in the Tuscany Falls ballroom at PebbleCreek Golf Resort, 3003 N. 164th Avenue, Goodyear.

Tickets, priced at $30 and available for presale at $20 through Thursday, May 16, provide attendees with “casino cash” that can be used to play casino games with the goal to increase the amount of cash. At the end of the night, every $100 in “casino cash” can be exchanged for one raffle ticket to be entered into a drawing of raffle items. Presale tickets can be purchased by contacting event directors Cameron Decker and Sarah Wilson at 602-828-1414.

Decker, a senior at AAEC-EM, said the death of Johnson, who he described as an “amazing, upbeat and positive” individual, impacted his entire school and even more so the 90 students in his senior class.

“All of us know each other. All of us have been taking classes together since freshman year. It was very hard to see someone that meant so much to all of us pass away at such a young age and so unexpectedly,” Decker said.

But Decker said he didn’t want to sit back and mourn. Instead, he wanted to find a way to help Johnson’s family.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘If we can come together and do something nice to commemorate Conner, we can go a step further and help take away that financial burden,’” he said.

So, he reached out to Vegas 2 U, a casino-themed entertainment company, and was thrilled when they agreed to provide their services for free. And when he reached out to PebbleCreek Golf Resort, they were just as willing to help by providing access their ballroom for the event at no cost. The AAEC-EM FFA Alumni chapter, a parent support group, also extended its support for the fundraiser by reaching out to the community for event sponsors and raffle item donations, Decker said.

Sponsorship and raffle donations are still needed, though, Decker added. Sponsors can make monetary donations through four packages, bronze ($150), silver ($300), gold ($500) and platinum ($1,000). From recognition in the event’s program to additional tickets and “casino cash,” each package offers different perks. Donations are tax deductible via tax credit ID 81-1440737.

Seeing the community come together for Johnson has been inspiring, Decker said.

“We have a ton of people excited for the event — not only because they’re going to be able to have fun at the event, but because it’s for a good cause,” he said.

“We’re there to remember Conner, we’re there to show our support for the family, and we’re there to show what a community of individuals can do for someone else.”