Wilson High student Luke Johnson died at 16 years old in 2016 of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Photo courtesy the Luke Tatsu Johnson Foundation.

There are plenty of organizations raising money for cancer research, but not many of them are like the Luke Tatsu Johnson Foundation here in Long Beach.

Luke Johnson was a bright young Wilson High School golfer who lost his battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2016, and his parents created the foundation, “to raise funds to support causes that reflect the things most important to Luke—golf, academics and finding a cure for childhood cancer.”

“Luke was just a great kid and a friend to everyone,” said Luke’s father, Todd Johnson. “I feel like we’re unique and the feedback we’ve gotten in the community is that they feel like it’s more of a local event with a cheery feel to it.”

The Luke Tatsu Johnson Foundation has raised over $356,000 since 2016 and the vast majority of that money has been donated to pediatric cancer research and patient care at Miller Children’s Hospital and Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute.

“We’re so proud of it,” Todd Johnson said of the money raised. “It’s really humbling and heartwarming to do such great work with Team Tatsu in Long Beach in recognition of my son and his memory.”

The foundation is celebrating Luke-toberfest this month with a golf tournament and banquet fundraiser on Oct. 28 at Recreation Park Golf Course. They call it a tournament, but Todd Johnson said they don’t really keep score.

“We have a few contests here and there, but at the end of the day, it’s more about remembering Luke and enjoying the sport that he loved so much,” Todd Johnson said. “It’s about raising money and having a good time. Golf was a big part of Luke’s life and he was an avid golfer. He wanted nothing else but to succeed as a member of the Wilson boys’ golf team. Unfortunately, he got ill and was not afforded that chance, but golf was a big part of what Luke was about.”

In 2018, Todd and his wife Rena Johnson awarded Wilson golfers with scholarships in Luke’s name.

“He couldn’t be there with us, but I like to think that he was there in spirit,” Wilson golfer Tyler Allen said after the ceremony. “The scholarship monetarily means a lot to me, no matter how much it is, but to just have the scholarship with Luke’s name means so much more.”

In 2020, COVID-19 shutdowns canceled the golf tournament, so the foundation organized two fundraisers, Links 4 Luke and Move 4 Luke, that donors could participate in safely on their own time. They had so much success that donors can still participate in those fundraisers by dedicating a round of golf or running around Long Beach in Luke’s memory.

“(The Johnsons are) really making sure everyone has a chance to remember who Luke was, because he was a really special kid, and he shouldn’t be forgotten,” Allen said. “He was just the most amazing person you could ever meet.”

For more information about the Luke Tatsu Johnson Foundation, visit their website.

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