Cranston native nominated as ‘Visionary of the Year’

New Johnston AD also focuses on philanthropy


Justin Erickson, a Cranston native and the former assistant athletic director for Cranston schools is a man of many interests, activities and projects.

Currently the Athletic Director for the Johnston School Department, Erickson Started his athletic career with Little League Baseball before continuing on to play CLCF football, wrestle at Western Hills and West, and participate in football, lacrosse and indoor track at West.

Born and raised in Cranston, he attended George J. Peters Elementary School, Western Hills Middle School and graduated from Cranston West in 2002. He received a degree in general business studies and a minor in education from CCRI.

“I was always an active kid. Lots of sports and school activities,” Erickson said.

Today, he volunteers his time as President of both The Cranston West Alumni Association and of Cranston Cares. He is a founding partner of the Dig In Dining Group, serves on the Executive Board of The Cranston Hall of Fame and serves on the board for The Cranston Athletic Hall of Fame. Not enough for you? Erickson is also active in the St. Mary’s Feast Society, the Rhode Island Principal’s Committee of Athletics and the Rhode Island Interscholastic League.

Most recently, Erickson has been nominated for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Visionary of the Year.

“I was nominated by Lesondra Pontarelli who won Woman of the Year for 2022. We will be raising funds from March 9 through May 19 with a final celebration night at Harbor Lights in Warwick,” Erickson said.

The 2023 campaign kickoff was held at 39 West several weeks ago. Erickson met Amelia Bernard, a four-year-old, who has leukemia as well as all the other candidates.

Kim Denice, Campaign Development Manager for Rhode Island Visionaries of the Year, explained some of the changes for this year’s LLS fundraising challenge.

“With the goal to evolve and expand our campaigns to move the needle forward for patients, LLS is embarking on this exciting opportunity to ensure that the campaign fully embraces the collective leadership that the entire class is having in the fight against blood cancers,” Denice said. “This is so much more than a name change, we are expanding and transforming the landscape of blood cancer care and support for patients.”

Each year, the global leader in the fight against blood cancer, LLS, continues to reach new heights in enhancing its philanthropic campaigns. The organization announced the evolution of its signature campaigns, Man & Woman of the Year and Students of the Year. Focused on innovating participant experiences and embracing the unified resolve to create a better world, one without blood cancers, Man & Woman of the Year and Students of Year are transitioning to LLS Visionaries of the Year and LLS Student Visionaries of the Year.

Over the past three decades, the campaigns have proven to be about much more than individuals and teams winning a competition; it is about incredible leaders from diverse experiences and backgrounds stepping up and leading others to raise critical funds to end blood cancer.

The funds raised through LLS’s Visionaries of the Year campaigns are used for the following: research to advance lifesaving therapies like immunotherapy, genomics and personalized medicine, which are saving lives today; free blood cancer information, education and support for patients and families; national and local advocacy efforts driving policies that safely accelerate new treatments and ensure patients have access to care so that they can live longer, healthier lives.

“Justin is a strong community advocate, loves dedicating his life to the betterment of sports and enriching kids’ lives both on and off the field. Justin loves his son and is continuously looking for ways to play and have fun with him while teaching him to be a better version of himself. He’s a dedicated husband and friend and would do anything for anyone. He should win because he’s a stand up, loving, caring guy who always wants to help, volunteers, and never stops strategizing ways to raise money and continuing to help more people,” said Gina Erickson, his wife of nine years and mother of their son, Colt.

Erickson, who considers himself a “go big or go home” kind of person, originally set a fundraising goal for his team of $50,000 but several members of his team and supporters suggested he shoot for the moon, and challenged him and themselves to raise $100,000.

One member of Erickson’s team is former colleague and friend, John Fontaine, Principal at Cranston West.

“Justin Erickson is a completely selfless person who cares about everyone and everything before himself.  Justin is someone that always says ‘yes’ to help with anything and always willing to solve any problem, both large and small.  No matter the day, time of year, or how hectic his own schedule is, Justin is always there for everyone.  There is no better person around to be considered for the Visionary of the Year campaign,” said Fontaine.

Beyond his support and interest in sports, Erickson gives back to the Cranston community at large by being the President and a founding member of Cranston Cares, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides equitable improvements throughout the Cranston Community.

“Justin has always been one of the hardest working people that I know. He genuinely cares about his work and the people he helps. I’m proud to call him one of my closest friends. I’ve know him forever and he has always been the same great person,” said Ryan Nardolillo, Vice President of Cranston Cares.

For the people who know Erickson, the word “no” is truly not in his vocabulary. He has the ability to make things happen, get things done and connect people who can help with problems.

“Justin is everywhere and involved. I’m not sure where and when he finds the time in the day but he gets things done. Thank you Justin for making a difference in our schools and being an asset to our community,” said Tom Barbieri, Principal of Cranston East.

As a native Cranstonian, Erickson has made friendships that have lasted almost his full lifetime.

“I have known Justin since I was fortunate enough to meet him on the Little League field when we were just little kids. I know one thing for sure there certainly are not many Justin Ericksons in this world, and I’m thankful to call him one of my best friends. We have shared so many incredible moments in time together and through the highs and the lows he has always been an unconditional friend. He has a passionate, caring and forgiving heart and he always sees the best in people while trying to bring people together,” said business partner and friend, Ed Brady.

Brady offers high praise for Erickson’s devotion to and sacrifices for the city and community he loves.

“I have watched Justin dedicate his life helping others and I can honestly say he is passionately driven by the building a better Rhode Island and investing in opportunities for the future of our communities. He lives his life investing in the ‘little things’ that add up to being honored as this opportunity that he deserved as a potential Visionary of the Year. I am beyond proud of the father, husband, coach, business partner, leader, athletic director and community activist he has evolved into and I know the work it has taken him to get here day in and day out,” Brady said.

For Erickson, it is not about being popular and winning a contest.

“Once we get everyone to help out and involved, at the end of the day it is not about raising the money but where the money goes. It’s a great way for our community from everyone to join together, young to old to help find a cure,” he said.

Erickson’s grandmother unfortunately passed away from leukemia, so he said he is doing this work as a tribute to her.

To learn how to support Erickson and his team, check out his web link at

native, visionary


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here