Seven years ago, Rancho Peñasquitos resident and Mt. Carmel baseball coach Keith Johnson was listening to a church sermon in which the priest challenged his congregants to “do more.” That resonated with Keith, since he knew many people who had been impacted by cancer. “I knew there was more that I could do to raise awareness and funding for research,” he explained. This inspired Keith to create the Cancer Game, an annual baseball game between Mt. Carmel and another local high school.
In its first year, Keith’s best friend and fellow coach Kyle Owsley lost his mother, Kendra Couch, to cancer. “Seeing Kyle, my best friend, lose his mom was heart-wrenching,” he shared. “It is in her memory that the Kendra Couch Classic was founded this year.”
“The main purpose behind this is to help student athletes understand that they have a voice and can drive change in their community.”
The Kendra Couch Classic has grown to something much bigger than the original Cancer Game. It is a philanthropic high school baseball tournament that aims to raise awareness about cancer while also raising money to find a cure. Each player and coach honors someone who has endured cancer by wearing that person’s name on the back of their team jersey. These jerseys, along with many other items, are then auctioned off to raise money for UCSD Moores Cancer Center. Eight baseball teams from across San Diego County participated in its inaugural year as a tournament this past March.
Name: Keith Johnson
Profession: Admission and Matriculation Manager
Community: Rancho Peñasquitos
Family: Wife – Brianna; daughter – Madeline
Hobbies & Interests: Baseball, golf, watching sports
Favorite Places in 92129: Baseball field, Christmas Card Lane, Deli Stop
“We have been fortunate to raise over $45,000 in seven years!” Keith shared. He admits that increasing awareness and raising funds for the Kendra Coach Classic has been a challenge, but he added, “The most rewarding aspect is seeing the families, friends, and loved ones share smiles together on the auction day. The main purpose behind this is to help student athletes understand that they have a voice and can drive change in their community.”
When he isn’t coaching, Keith works as a manager in the registrar’s office at Ashford University, where he obtained his master’s degree in education. In his free time he loves baseball, golfing, and hanging out with his wife and three-year-old daughter. “She has me wrapped around her little finger, so we enjoy going to the park, playing hide-and-seek, riding her bike, and going to the baseball field.”