A lot has happened over the last 10 months to Erik and Stacey Rees, whose daughter Jessica—who dreamed up JoyJars and the Never Ever Give Up Foundation—died earlier this month from cancer.
The whirlwind continued on Friday, in a small temporary office in Rancho Santa Margarita, where the 12-year-old’s legacy got another boost as NEGU was awarded the first $2,500 grant from the Orange County Community Foundation.
The grant giveaway was part of a Facebook campaign by the OCCF to raise awareness of “amazing nonprofits” in the community, said its president, Shelley Hoss. It asked its 770 Facebook fans to vote, but in a week’s time there were 2,600 new people who liked OCCF’s Facebook page, and NEGU had nearly 3,000 of the 6,600 votes cast between Jan. 9-13. There were 195 nonprofit organizations that received votes. The runner-up was the SoCal Bulldog Rescue with 355 votes.
“We were so overwhelmed with the incredible outpouring of what was clearly in honor of your beautiful girl and to see such a community come forward inspired us not just about everything that you’ve accomplished and will continue to accomplish in Jessie’s honor, but really what being part of the community is about, and that’s very much at the heart of our mission, which is mobilizing our community to make an impact in the area of passion in their heart,” Hoss said during the presentation. “So, to see you doing that in such a personal way that has captured the hearts and minds of so many people is an incredible model.”
Never Ever Give Up was inspired by Jessie and its purpose to to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer, assist courageous families to stay strong, and recognize compassionate acts of hope, joy and love.
Jessie’s father, who is a minister at Saddleback Church, said that the check will ensure about 200 kids with cancer receive JoyJars—vessels filled with age-specific treats and toys for kids. NEGU has given away 3,000 so far, and Jessie’s goal was to give away 50,000 this year to children in hospitals suffering from cancer. Rees said he believes that will happen.
“On behalf of our foundation, we receive this with open hearts and open minds and we will be the best stewards of this possible and we will make sure that children receive joy because of it,” Erik Rees said in accepting the check. “That’s what Jessie’s wish was and so that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Jessica Joy Rees was diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer in March, 2011. She blogged and wrote on Facebook about her ordeal, and inspired the Never Ever Give Up Foundation.