A Charlotte mom is working to save lives while honoring the memory of her 9-year-old son.
Michael Johnson, and his cousin, Mechelle Morrison, 23, both died after a cooking fire in Charlotte in May 2018.
Michael's guardian, Dominique Bradley, is using this tragedy to protect other families from the same heartbreak. She was his guardian from the age of 5 until he died. Bradley wants to make sure that children Michael's age, and the public, know his story and understand how to protect themselves from fire dangers.
"Michael was a vibrant child and full of life," Bradley said. "He always wanted to help, and his love and grace was always felt in his presence. His love was contagious."
This year marks the fifth year Bradley has partnered with the Charlotte Fire Department through her program, Michael's House, for a book bag drive in Michael's honor. She's working to fill book bags with supplies kids need for school and fire safety materials that can protect them at home.
"I didn't just want him to be another sad story on the news. I wanted his name to live on," Bradley said. "Although I'm not able to still have my child here, I don't want another parent to feel what I felt. I don't want another child to feel what Michael felt in his last moments."
Since 1997, in partnership with
Classroom Central and
Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the
WSOC-TV 9 School Tools program has collected school supplies to distribute free to students in grades K-12. As part of the program,
fire stations across the Charlotte area are accepting donations of book bags and school supplies in loving memory of Michael Johnson.
"Being able to honor the memory of Michael is very special for Charlotte Fire," Charlotte Fire Chief Reginald Johnson said. "People, give whatever you can give, whatever's in your heart. Even if it's an eraser, a pack of pencils — those will be sent to good use at Classroom Central and will help out students in need."
Many families that are vulnerable or earning low incomes depend on Classroom Central for assistance.
School supplies will be distributed at Classroom Central's Free Store — a retail operation where teachers, personnel and students from nearly 200 schools across six school districts shop for free supplies throughout the academic year — and at a Mobile Free Store and other community-supported programs.
All materials distributed are used to create inviting learning environments and to support the academic and personal growth of students whose families lack the resources needed to purchase school supplies.
"I'm missing so many milestones with Michael. I want to get out there in the community and make a change and make difference," Bradley said. "Rather than stay in bed and cry, as much as I miss my son, as much as I miss our moments, the community needs to know that it's not just my child and that this can happen to anyone's child."
Donations can be made through Aug. 31.
Find a Charlotte Fire donation location near you.