For years, Jenna Johnson made a name for herself on the soccer field.
From leading Lyons to the girls soccer state finals in 2000 to helping the Libertyville-based Eclipse Soccer Club capture numerous U.S. Youth Soccer National championships, she experienced what many athletes only dream about.
Johnson’s life, however, came to unexpected halt in Dec. 2005 when she died in Los Angeles while training for a marathon to benefit AIDS research. She was 22 years old.
“Jenna was one of the best athletes I have ever coached,” Lyons girls soccer assistant coach Andy Newcomb said. “I have never met a person in my life that was as self-confident as Jenna was.”
Thanks to the help of Newcomb and others in the Lyons soccer community, Johnson’s impact and memory still live on through the Jenna Johnson Memorial Foundation.
This weekend, the first annual 3-on-3 soccer shootout will be held at Lyons. All proceeds benefit the foundation, which is composed of family and former coaches and was created to maintain a scholarship for a Lyons girls soccer player each year.
Jackie Hanson, who helped lead the Lions to four consecutive Class AA state berths, received the first scholarship last year. She will be attending Ohio University this fall to continue her soccer career.
The 3-on-3 tournament is part of the national ‘Kick-It Soccer Shootout.’ Qualifying winning teams will have an opportunity to participate in the World Championships in January at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.
During her four-year varsity career at Lyons, Johnson recorded 66 goals and 59 assists playing in the midfield. In 2000, she scored 26 goals and handed out 18 assists to help the Lions advance to the state finals.
“When Jenna started to crawl, I knew she was never looking back and that I was going to have my hands full,” said her mother, Maryanne. “Everything was too slow for her, because she always wanted to approach things fast. Whether it was with school or other things, she wanted to learn and move on to do bigger and better things.”
Johnson continued her soccer career at Miami (Fla.).
“She never forgot about where she came from,” former Lyons girls soccer coach Alex Hernandez said. “Jenna always came back to work at different soccer camps during the summer, and was really willing to do anything to help anyone.”
After graduating from Miami in 2004 with a double major in Motion Pictures and English, Johnson moved to Los Angeles and was hired as a production assistant for the George Lopez Show.
“Jenna was a genuine person,” said Rory Dames, who is the director of the Eclipse Soccer Club. “She kept talking about how she wanted to make a movie, and that was one reason why she decided to move out to Los Angeles.”
According to her mother, Johnson wanted to make a movie that would make a difference in the world.
“Everything she did, she did it with a purpose,” Maryanne Johnson said. “Jenna really looked at herself as an example. She not only wanted to make herself better, but she wanted to make the people around her better, too.”
Additional information regarding the 3-on-3 shootout may be obtained by visiting jennajohnson.org.