Contact: Vicky Lynch | E: firstname.lastname@example.org | P: 630.362.8829 | W: HandlebarPublishing.com
- Never Ever Give Up is immensely personal. Why is it important to share your daughter’s story?
I had three goals for sharing Jessie’s story; increase awareness of childhood cancer, give people facing personal hurdles in life hope and to create a wave of compassion through personal acts of kindness.
- Where did Jessie come up with the idea of creating JoyJars? Why did she do this, instead of focusing on herself?
Jessie came up with the idea after she started treatment and learned there were lots of children that couldn’t leave the hospital. She just had a burden for them and wanted to help them. The name actually came from taking her middle name “joy” and adding it to “jars”. She choose to spread joy because she knew life was about giving not getting.
- How did making the JoyJars, not only help others, but also begin helping your family? JoyJars gave Jessie a sense of purpose during her fight with cancer. She loved filling each one and sending them out to kids. She really loved seeing pictures of kids holding her JoyJars on Facebook. Our entire family helped Jessie with JoyJars and today we still stuff “joy” as a family in her honor.
- Tell us about the Facebook page Jessie created. How did social media help Jessie throughout battling cancer?
We needed a way to keep people updated on Jessie’s condition so we were going to create a CaringBridge page but she didn’t want one so we suggested Facebook. She was okay with Facebook and started sharing her daily journey with people she had never met. Her Facebook fans become like family to her as they sent daily notes of encouragement and prayers. Jessie felt very alone and physically limited during her fight so her fans made her feel loved.
- You did not fully share the extent of Jessie’s illness to your other two children. Do you think this was the right move? Why?
Every parent has to make decisions that they feel are best for their children. Stacey and I felt it was best to hold on to the fact God could heal Jessie at anytime. In addition, we wanted everyone living with “hope”, which is a very powerful thing in life no matter what age. Was it the right move? After talking with Shaya and JT afterwards they were both thankful they didn’t live with this dark cloud over their lives each day. They did an amazing job loving their sister and being there for her. Looking back, we wouldn’t have changed a thing.
- How did your kids handle their grief? What advice do you have for parents who are dealing with a tragedy?
Grief is a powerful emotion that everyone processes differently. Some get quiet and some get loud. Our job as parents were to simply walk with them through their grief and let them know we were there for them no matter what. My only tip for parents is don’t hide your pain from your kids. Let them know you are hurting too and together with God’s help you will all heal.
- Jessie had a strong faith in God. How did she draw strength from her relationship with God during her treatment?Jessie did have an amazing faith in God which inspires me daily. She would pray for herself, listen to worship music during treatments and do her nightly devotions with her mommy. She drew her strength from Phil. 4:13 and asked God daily for support.
- Many of your friends and family members walked along side of you during this difficult process. How did this help?
Jessie was blessed to be part of a great school, church and swim team which provided her and our family wonderful emotional, spiritual and practical support. After Jessie moved to Heaven, we didn’t have to cook a meal for four months.
- Unfortunately, cancer strikes 1 in 300 children before the age of 20. What advice do you have for others who want to help a family with a child fighting cancer?
In the book I list all sorts of simple ways to help families with children fighting cancer. Families need help but don’t want to have to add “managing” the help to their already chaotic lives. The best thing to do if you really know the person is show up and do something. Don’t ask, “how can I help you?” Just help.
- Over 80,000 JoyJars have been distributed internationally. How have you accomplished so much in such a small time frame?We are actually nearing 100,000 JoyJars in all 50 states and 28 countries. We just received a request from Lima, Peru. Social media has been the best channel of communication for us. Jessie simply just started at Children’s Hospital of Orange County and it grew week by week. We now partner with over 275 children’s hospitals and 175 Ronald McDonald Houses.
- How did your experiences with Jessie’s illness strengthen or challenge your faith? During Jessie’s fight it strengthened my faith as I depended on God to give me the wisdom, strength and peace to walk with Jessie and the family. I truly thought He would heal her physically. Unfortunately, God choose Heaven as a means of healing which challenged my trust in Him for months. Now, Heaven has never been more real to me and I can’t wait to spend time in eternity with Jessie and my Heavenly Father.
- Do you have advice for other Christians who may be questioning God’s plan?I don’t know if I would call it “advice” but I would let them know they are not alone in their feelings. I questioned God many times and still do. I don’t question His love for me or Jessie. I questioned His choice in using Heaven as a healing agent. But now that time has past, I see His plan. Jessie was an Angel sent to Earth with a message (Never Ever Give Up) and a mission (childhood cancer). How else can you explain how one twelve year old girl, fighting cancer, choose to give to other kids and started a global movement of compassion that has raised millions of dollars to “care” for children/families fighting cancer around the world. My only answer is, God had a plan!In addition, I would encourage them to realize God’s plans don’t always match up to our own plans but He is still a loving and caring God. Faith in God is all about “believing” in our hearts and heads that God loves us no matter what and when we fully depend on Him, He will show us the way.
- Tell us more about the Jessie Rees Foundation. September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month. How can we help?
The Jessie Rees Foundation is a global childhood cancer charity dedicated to ensuring every child fighting cancer has the support and resources to Never Ever Give Up. We fulfill our mission by 1) encouraging courageous kids to NEGU, 2) assisting courageous families to NEGU, 3) rallying communities to NEGU for courageous kids, 4) mobilize athletes to NEGU for courageous kids and 5) inspire the world to NEGU for courageous kids.
Each year in the US, the month of September is dedicated to “childhood cancer awareness”. If you have a social media platform, please join our Going Gold campaign and help raise awareness of this devastating disease.