E.A. Sports Today

‘Truly monumental’

’24 Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame nominee Mobley owns place in Donoho’s glorious volleyball history, but patience learned in early basketball struggles helped her to grow a ministry.

Cover photo: Former Donoho volleyball and basketball standout Daphne Mobley Johnston poses with her Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame plaque before Saturday’s induction ceremony at the Oxford Civic Center. (Photo by Joe Medley)

OXFORD — With every set Daphne Mobley Johnston dealt during a glorious volleyball career, there came a statement. It came with her role.

She was there to help others.

Who knew that lessons learned in winless basketball seasons would go the longest way toward her life’s ministry to help Alzheimer’s patients?

Joe Medley, Editor

Her successes in volleyball went the longest way to earning the former Donoho star induction into the LaGrange College Sports Hall of Fame and, as of Saturday, the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame class of 2024.

She took her place alongside former Anniston High and University of Arkansas football standout Quinton Caver, former Bethune High School basketball star Jimmy Dew, former Piedmont High football coach George Hoblitzell, former Oxford High and Jacksonville State basketball legend Aaron Kelley and legendary former Anniston High basketball coach Schuessler Ware.

“It’s just the 30-year honor for my teammates and coaches that I had at Donoho,” she said.

Johnston humbly joked about whether her credentials measured up to those of her 2024 CCHoF classmates. Perhaps that’s because sports ended in college for her.

Daphne Mobley Johnston signs Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame programs alongside former Anniston High School and fellow Class of 2024 inductee Schuessler Ware on Saturday at the Oxford Civic Center. (Photo by Joe Medley)

There was no foray into coaching or professional roster spot. There is no official count of assists she’s dealt beyond her school-record 5,012 at LaGrange.

Sadly, teammates she’s assisted for 12 years might struggle to remember all that she and her volunteers do for them. Then again, those who make it their business to assist always see a bigger picture.

Johnston has helped to grow her ministry into the 6-year-old Respite For All Foundation, which helps Alzheimer’s and dementia patients across 13 states and 40 locations.

“Really, what we do is give them a place of community and a place to belong,” she said. “They’re forgotten after they get a diagnosis.”

Johnston’s involvement started when her pastor, Dr. Lawson Bryan, of First United Methodist Church of Montgomery, piqued her interest in a two-day-a-week ministry helping dementia patients.

It resonated with Johnston, whose mother rented a church camp for about 300 seniors once a year. Throughout her school years, she checked out of school to help with that three-day camp and watched her mother operate it.

“She didn’t entertain,” Johnston said. “She created a space for them to still serve and have an opportunity to grow.”

Johnston and Bryan have teamed to grow her Alzheimer’s ministry into a four-day-a-week pearl that uses volunteers, with only one paid staffer. It grew into a national foundation that serves thousands, she said.

“Respite means to take a break from something hard, and people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia really need a break from that disease,” she said. “They need a place to plug in.

“Whereas I thought of my early life I was going to be a coach, a volleyball coach or a basketball coach, really God had intended for me to coach volunteers and coach our community and how we can make a place to belong for these families.”

Growing her ministry took patience and time. 

No doubt helping Donoho’s long-successful volleyball program to two state-runner up finishes and one of its 13 state titles helped her develop skills. Two winless seasons in basketball on the way to a county title and Final Four appearance as a senior helped more.

“The basketball experience was so important in my life, because I started in the seventh grade with a handful of middle schoolers,” she said. “We had no experience, and we played a varsity schedule. We continuously got beat for two years.

“My senior year, a six-year process, we made it to the Final Four and won the Calhoun County championship.To me, that gave me a skill set to see a process over time develop.”

The lesson?

“Something truly monumental takes time,” she said. “That’s what my basketball career represented to me.”

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