Johnny G’s Friday proceeds helping families of Arizona firefighters

bpurser@macon.comJuly 2, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- When Warner Robins eye doctor Johnny Gayton heard about the 19 firefighters who died Sunday in an Arizona wildfire, he knew he had to do something to help.

Gayton, who owns Johnny G’s Fun Center at 815 Russell Parkway, decided that for one day, all the revenue the center earned would be donated to the Yarnell Emergency Fire Fund through the United Way of Yavapai County.

The still-raging fire, believed to have been ignited by a lightning strike June 28 near Yarnell, about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix, has also destroyed more than 200 homes.

On Friday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., all of the money spent on attractions, games, wristbands and more at Johnny G’s will be earmarked to help those whose loved ones, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, were lost fighting the fire. The money will also be used to help the residents of Yarnell who have lost their homes to the wildfire.

“I heard a singer named Josh Wilson make a statement following the floods in Nashville about how we as individuals want God and others to come to the aid of victims of tragedies but frequently do not actually do anything ourselves,” Gayton said in statement. “He wrote a song about it called, ‘I Refuse.’ ”

Gayton said he wears an “I Refuse” wristband to remind him that he needs to do something when he can to help others.

“These men paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation,” Gayton said. “The very least that we can do is help their families.”

Trapped near Yarnell after strong winds pushed the fire toward them, firefighters were forced to deploy emergency fire shelters meant to shield them from flames and heat, state forestry spokesman Art Morrison told The Associated Press. The firefighters were part of a specialized fire crew that removed brush and trees likely to burn in the direction of residents and businesses.

The 1994 Storm King Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colo., had been listed as the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters by the National Fire Protection Association, the AP reported. Fourteen firefighters lost their lives in that blaze.

In a telephone interview, Gayton noted that owning Johnny G’s affords him the opportunity to help others without having to wait for a board’s approval. He said he’s also given away center proceeds to other worthy causes, including Oklahoma tornado victims and tsunami survivors in Haiti.

Gayton, who also owns Eyesight Associates, also teaches his skill in foreign countries.

The link for website for donations for the United Way of Yavapai County is www.unitedwayyavapai.org.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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