First responders are the definition of everyday heroes. Trained to help others during natural disasters and other catastrophes, these workers are indispensable. Fortunately, one New Orleans organization is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of first responders – and they work right here in the city. Happy Johnson and his crew at Team Happy Foundation are all about advocating first responder jobs to today’s youth.

CEO and Co-Founder Happy Johnson got the idea for this organization through his personal experience. “As the youngest black male driver of an emergency response vehicle in my relief unit after Hurricane Katrina, my team had a desire to increase diversity within the disaster response field,” says Johnson.

Team Happy Foundation was created to make the first responder field accessible and enticing to kids. To reach them, the team has also written and published four children’s books geared toward second graders: Backyard Bayou, The Adventures of Happy and Big Wanda, Fearless Delta Fox and What About Pickles? The books teach kids about environmental stewardship, storm protection and even disaster preparedness for pets.

Since its creation, the Team Happy Foundation has taught 4,000 kids in 50 local schools how to build a hurricane preparation kit, as well as champion the restoration of Louisiana wetlands. Through the books and presentations, this nonprofit is working to help today’s kids understand the importance of disaster preparedness and environmental sustainability. Plus, Team Happy Foundation has put 45,000 volunteer hours toward home rebuilding in New Orleans, in addition to the organization’s many more programs.

The teen tricentennial platform they’ve incorporated, titled The Next 300, encourages the young people of New Orleans to consider their city’s future on their own terms. “Through Instagram and a series of short documentaries, youth in the Lower 9th Ward have a dynamic stage to voice their vision for the future of our beloved city,” says Johnson. Their opinions about the city’s future are inspiring and hopeful, and this project deserves recognition.

Get Involved

To learn more about the organization and to inquire about volunteer opportunities, visit, or