Alexa’s Hugs are meant to be cute and remind people of seat belt safety
By Jessica Benes Reporter-Herald Staff Writer
Tad Johnson pats the shoulder strap of his seat belt at chest level and says, “I wear it right next to my heart.”
The inch-wide ribbon wrap patterned with purple and blue butterflies is stamped with labels that say, “Alexa’s Hugs. Buckle Up. Every Time.”
Nineteen-year-old Alexa Johnson loved the colors pink and purple. She loved butterflies. She loved hugs. Johnson was a confidante and sounding board for others, said her father, Tad Johnson. She took time to visit her young-mother friends in the hospital. She visited a friend in jail every week.
“I miss her laugh and I just miss her,” said her mother, Sharon Younie.
Friends and acquaintances post photos of themselves wearing seat belts on Facebook in honor of Alexa Johnson, who died in a car accident on Feb. 10.
Johnson was on her way to help out a friend in the Longmont area on Feb. 10 when she rolled her truck at about 2:14 a.m. and died at the scene. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Initially the Colorado State Patrol listed drugs or alcohol as possible contributing factors but this was later ruled out by the Weld County Coroner’s Office.
Over 1,000 people attended her funeral at Crossroads Church in Loveland.
In the days after the accident, her dad would wake up at 2:11, 2:12 a.m. and wish he could turn back the clock. So he paged through photo albums and Facebook posts during those sleepless nights and started noticing that Alexa wasn’t wearing a seat belt in a lot of them. And neither were her friends.
“All of the kids were talking about how much they missed her laughter and her smile but mostly they missed her hugs,” Tad said. “I sat back in my chair and I hugged myself. And I went, ‘That’s it, think of it as a hug.'” He wrote that message to her Facebook friends and the concept of “Alexa’s Hugs” was conceived.
He and his wife, Jona, decided they wanted to design something tangible to hand out and educate people about seat belt safety. After some experimentation and visits to Hobby Lobby and other craft stores, the two came up with a small length of ribbon that can be velcroed around a seat belt to add a cute and fashionable decoration to a belt and remind the wearer to buckle up.
Hobby Lobby donated a Cricket machine to the project to help cut out the stickers that are fastened with adhesive to the ribbon.
The parents gave them out to her friends and classmates. The Johnsons also started a weekly drawing on their Facebook Page, “In Memory of Alexa Johnson.” People can post photos of themselves once a day in their parked car wearing a seat belt. Each name is entered in a drawing for gas bucks and concert tickets to the Greeley Stampede. Alexa loved concerts and was always out of gas.
The family is working on Alexa’s Hugs to give to the graduating class at Loveland High School. Alexa graduated from Loveland High in 2012.
“As it gets warmer and closer to graduation, kids get a little crazy,” Tad said. Jona and Tad said that the emphasis with Alexa’s Hugs is to remind young people to drive safely. And it is to remind parents to have a discussion with their teenagers about seat belt safety and to check their Facebook photos.
“Lexi wore her seatbelt when she was with us,” Jona said.
Alexa’s younger brother Isaac carries a brilliant pink Alexa Bear with him everywhere he goes. Several of Alexa’s guy friends went to Build-A-Bear and made the stuffed animal to present to Isaac at Alexa’s funeral.
Her mom, Sharon Younie, donated Alexa’s truck to Alive at 25, a national outreach program run in Colorado by the state patrol, National Safety Council and Colorado State Patrol Family Foundation. The organization teaches defensive driving and safety and will use the truck in demonstrations.
“She touched a lot of lives,” Younie said. “I don’t think anyone knows what they’re doing for others when they’re doing it.” Younie and her family are also in the process of having a bench dedicated near the Lake Loveland swim beach.
Jessica Benes can be reached at 669-5050, ext. 530, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @JessicaBenes. Read her blog at jessicabenes.com.Read the article on the Reporter Herald website.