Joy Jars Inspired By The Jessie Rees Foundation

erik rees explains the jessie rees foundation

My name is Erik Rees I get the honor of being the CEO of the Jessie Rees Foundation and, more proudly, I get to be Jessie’s father. The Jessie Rees Foundation was inspired by my 11-year-old daughter, Jessie, during her fight with cancer. About three weeks into our treatment, we’re just leaving the hospital and she said, “Mom, Dad. When do all the other kids get to come home?”. And, I was like, “Well, Jess, there’s a lot of other types of cancers that children fight. Yours is one type, but there are all other kinds that cause kids to have to stay in the hospital for days and weeks and, unfortunately, some have to stay multiple months.”

The next words out of her mouth have literally changed the tapestry of my life because she simply said, from the backseat, “And, how can we help them?”. She really wanted to do something for them. So, we just said, “We’ll figure something out.” And, there was a jar on the kitchen shelf that Jessie had noticed and she said, “What about a jar?”. And, I was like, “For what?”. And, she goes, “To put toys in.” And, I was like, “Okay.” Jessie’s middle name was Joy and so, we just took joy and jars and created Joy Jars. A Joy Jar is a 64-ounce jar stuffed with new toys, games, and activities for kids fighting cancer. We make them for a few months old all the way up to 18, for boys and girls. And so, we stuff them primarily here at the Joy Factory, and then they are shipped out to either hospitals, Ronald McDonald Houses, oncology camps, or straight to kids’ homes. I’ve had the honor of delivering Joy Jars to kids fighting cancer in the hospital. I delivered them, with Jessie, and she would,, pull her little red wagon around and take them out and give them to the kids. But the consistent response from all of them is you just see a child smile. We’ve had so many families just tell us, “Thank you. I haven’t seen my child smile in weeks.”

On January 5th, 2012, that was the day that Jessie lost her fight. And, we had had 10 months and two days with her and we were obviously grateful for that. But we obviously would have loved to have so much more with her. But during the fight, she was really the bright light for all of this because she loved the Lord and she knew the great commandment was to love God and love others. And so, during her 10 month and two day fight, she actually stuffed over 3,000 Joy Jars with her family and friends in the Joy Factory at that time, which was our garage. We’ve kept the Jessie Rees Foundation going and just passed 10 years. Now, we’ve been able to stuff and send over 350,000 Joy Jars to kids fighting cancer in all 50 states and 40 countries. Every day in the United States, 46 more children are diagnosed with cancer. We’re going to strive the best we can to be vessels of hope and joy and love to families in a really, really unfortunate situation.

If you were inspired by this story we would love to tell you more about Eastside’s Compassion Team made up of volunteers who have a relentless love and commitment to using their lives to shed light in the darkest of places. We yearn for all to know God.  We are committed to finding unique ways to serve in our local community. We aim to empower kids to thrive and bring hope to families by listening and learning from existing pillar organizations in the community, developing partnerships, identifying gaps in services, and intentionally mobilizing people and resources. Our compassion team’s vision is to be a leader in finding solutions, building bridges, and bringing the love and hope of Jesus to hurting communities. We strive to inspire people to collectively influence transformational life change. If you would like to find out more about how you can volunteer in your community go to: eastside.com/local.

We volunteer in our communities and we also meet together every weekend if you would like to join us in person or online. We believe that this is a place for everyone, wherever you are on your journey. We want to transform our homes, community, and world by pursuing God, building community, and unleashing compassion. If you would like to find out more about Eastside please visit eastside.com/about.

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