Photos courtesy of the Jessie Reese Foundation.
Three-time Super Bowl Champion Willie McGinest, four-time Olympic Gold Medalist Kaitlin Sandeno and other local professional athletes joined the Jessie Rees Foundation at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach this morning on Monday, December 15 to help distribute JoyJars, encouraging kids fighting cancer to Never Ever Give Up (NEGU), as is the foundation’s motto.
In 2011, 12 year-old Jessie Rees created and handed out 3,000 JoyJars herself during her 10-month fight against an inoperable brain cancer. She passed away in January 2012, yet her mission lives on. The foundation she started continues to offer care and moral support by distributing more than 95,000 JoyJars to kids who are fighting cancer across the U.S. and in 27 other countries. The foundation provides the JoyJars at no cost to the receiving hospitals and recipients and is completely funded through private donations.
JoyJars are 64-ounce plastic jars filled with new toys and activities to help lift the spirits of children fighting cancer. Jim Hill, local sports anchor, Jessica Hardy, Olympic Gold Medalist, Nick Punto, 2011 St. Louis Cardinals World Series Champ for the Oakland A’s and Chad Smith of the Detroit Tigers attended the event to mingle with hospital patients, relay words of encouragement and distribute holiday-themed JoyJars.
In 2012 Jessie Rees was honored with the title “Young Wonder” by CNN and in 2013 People Magazine named her “A Hero Among Us.” Even though Jessie Rees lost her battle to cancer on January 5, 2012, her from-the-heart initiative to encourage pediatric patients to stay strong and keep fighting lives on.