Johnny Strange will forever be remembered as an adventurer and activist — and at times a daredevil. Now, his legacy includes inspiring other Malibu kids to live extraordinary lives.
On Friday, the Johnny Strange Adventure Reading Corner was officially dedicated at Point Dume Marine Science School (PDMSS). It is named for late Malibu adventurer Johnny Strange, who died BASE jumping in Switzerland in October 2015 at age 23. Strange grew up on Point Dume and he, along with his sisters Brianna and MacKenna, was a student at PDMSS. It was clear his memory lives on at the neighborhood elementary, where former teachers, family friends, neighbors and his parents met to dedicate the reading corner on Friday, Dec. 9.
The reading corner features a large map marked with places where Johnny travelled and achieved feats like climbing the Seven Summits [the highest peak on each continent], going to the North and South Poles and bringing skateboarding to Bhutan — “All the places where Johnny did all his adventures… So the kids will be able to see the geography; they’ll learn geography,” Kristin Swindal, the force behind the reading corner dedication, told The Malibu Times.
There are also books about adventure for students to read and chairs to curl up in, as well as a drawing made by Strange when he was a young student at Point Dume. The drawing includes the words “The adventure begins here.”
Strange’s parents, Dianette Wells and Brian Strange, donated the reading corner and the idea of dedicating it to Johnny came from longtime friend and neighbor Swindal.
“Some kids struggle a little bit more academically, but he strived really hard, he followed his goals and he achieved them, and I wanted kids to know if they work hard they can achieve their dreams,” Swindal said.
School librarian Dee Dee Cooper and fifth grade teacher Margo Dunn spoke along with Swindal at the dedication.
“We enjoyed our years with Johnny immensely,” Cooper said. “Johnny loved everyone he met and no one was ever a stranger to him.”
Dunn also recalled his spirit and compassionate nature.
“Johnny could have done anything. He was like an explorer that faced fear and overcame it,” Dunn said. “Without people like Johnny, with that type of personality, things do not move forward. We need people like Johnny that will take risks so we can all gain knowledge.
“He turned his adventures into activism, always wanting to help others,” she continued. “He raised money to stop genocide and to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.”
PDMSS Student Council President Talia Swindal — Kristin Swindal’s daughter — thanked Strange’s parents for the donation.
“As we read his books, we will think about Johnny’s adventurous spirit and encourage our students to set goals that they would like to obtain,” Talia said.
The reading corner is located in the library at Point Dume Marine Science School. Those interested in donating an adventure book to the collection are encouraged to contact Cooper at DCooper@smmusd.org.