QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. — When Carson Jones invited Chy Johnson to sit with him and his football buddies at lunch last fall, he didn't think it was a big deal. Since that time, Johnson's story has been a source of inspiration told through accounts in the national media and, most recently, the priesthood session of LDS general conference.
Johnson, 16, has microcephaly, a brain disorder. She became a target for bullies at Queen Creek High School. After hearing her daughter express frustration about the other kids throwing trash at her, Chy’s mother, Elizabeth Johnson, called up Jones to ask if he’d give her some names of the bullies. Instead, Jones befriended her daughter.
"Throughout this whole process, Chy and I have become best friends," Jones said. "It's like we've known each other forever and we always know we've got each other's backs."
Johnson went from bullied to beloved at Queen Creek High School.
"Everybody loves Chy now," Jones said. "They're all really nice to her and it seems like everyone knows her. It's just a good feeling around the whole school."
Johnson became the football team's biggest fan and attended every game to cheer on "her boys." Queen Creek concluded its season with a state championship.
"She's pretty much one of our teammates," Jones said.
More recently, the story was recounted by David L. Beck, Young Men general president, during the priesthood session of the 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"Chy's mother calls these young men 'angels in disguise,'" Beck said during his talk. "Carson and his friends are quick to say that Chy has blessed their lives much more than they blessed hers. That's what happens when you lose yourself in serving others — you find yourself. You change and grow in ways that would not be possible otherwise."
Tucker Workman and Colton Morris, two of the Queen Creek football players, appreciated Johnson's presence on the sidelines.
"Knowing that Chy is out there cheering for us personally helps me to relax," Workman said. "When I see her and she isn't nervous for us, it helps me not to be nervous."
Jones, Workman and Morris were able to attend the priesthood session at the Conference Center and are preparing for full-time missions. They all know their friendship with Johnson has prepared them to serve.
Morris has been called to the Nevada Reno Mission.
"On my mission I'm going to have to talk to people, and it's not always going to be people who are similar to me," Morris said.
Workman is preparing to serve in Kampala, Uganda.
"I'm going to see all kinds of people with different struggles on my mission, and I know Chy has helped me prepare to try and help those people," Workman said.
Jones doesn't receive his missionary assignment until next week.
"The Spirit changes lives," Jones said. "We've really had nothing to do with this whole thing with Chy. It's been the Spirit the whole time."
Johnson and “her boys” eat lunch together every day, talk at school and occasionally play volleyball at a local park.
The young men will be cheering for Johnson in a couple of weeks when she competes in the Special Olympics.
Although the boys’ kind acts changed Johnson’s life at school, she has changed all three boys’ lives for good.
“She’s influenced me to do good not only to people who need good in their life, but to everyone,” Morris said.
Jones describes Johnson’s influence as something one has to experience when they meet her.
“She’s always smiling and laughing and you can definitely see the light of Christ in her,” Jones said. “That shines around the whole school. It wasn’t us that changed the whole school, it was Chy.”
Megan Marsden is an intern with the Deseret News writing for the Faith & Family section. She is currently a junior at BYU-Idaho studying communication.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company