Manning Playground Capital Campaign Kicks Off

On Friday, November 8, the Robert D. Fowler Family Y kicked off the John Manning Playground Capital Campaign with a memorial celebration and balloon release.

In September 2018, the Y lost a dear friend in John, who passed away unexpectedly. John grew up in the YMCA and was an active member and volunteer throughout his adult life, memorably serving as the emcee of our annual Good Friday Breakfast for more than 20 years and an active member of the Fowler Family Y board of advisors.

The capital campaign will fund a state-of-the-art playground that will honor John’s passion for inspiring and nurturing the children of our community. The campaign kick-off was held on john’s birthday and included a release of more than 100 red and white balloons in remembrance of John.

“John Manning made a difference at the YMCA and we are excited to continue his legacy and make a bigger difference for kids in our community,” said Mark Thornell, Executive Director of the Fowler Family YMCA. “Through our after-school care program, summer day camps and family memberships, our YMCA sees hundreds of kids each year at our facility. We can make a big impact with this playground. With a new educational-based creative playground that has STEM components, we have an opportunity to better serve these children and help them to learn and grow in an environment they may not have access to otherwise.”

John Manning: A True Friend of the Y

John was joy personified and he lived his life as a true servant leader. A devout Christian father, grandfather and husband, John opened every day — including Good Friday — with, “This is the day the Lord has made especially for you, and we will rejoice and be glad in it,” and he meant it. John had a unique ability to connect with others and make them feel valued and special. His laugh was infectious and his smile contagious.

John began his volunteer service to the YMCA at the Decatur Family Y more than 40 years ago, serving in various capacities, including as an advisory board member. He joined the association board in 1980, where he served on the Executive Committee, Diversity Committee and many others. John later served as board chairman for the Robert D. Fowler Family Y and remained an active volunteer there until his passing. John was presented with our Y’s highest volunteer honor in 2003, the Bransby Christian Leadership Award.

John’s family was the light of his life. He is survived by his wife Caroline, his daughters and sons-in-law, Sarah & Jaye Locke and Catherine & Matt Maguire, and his beloved “grand-girls” as he always referred to them, Caroline, Olivia, Sophie and Emerson.

John loved life and lived it to the fullest. Growing up in Decatur, John attended Druid Hills High School followed by the University of Georgia, where he fell in love with the Georgia Bulldogs. After UGA, he graduated with a law degree from Mercer University and went on to practice law for more than 40 years in Atlanta. With a love of all things God, Bulldogs, his fraternity Sigma Chi and the YMCA, John volunteered his time to these organizations and the church with an unmatched passion.

If you would like to make a donation to the John Manning Playground Fund, please visit

Hear more about John Manning in this video tribute created in early 2019.