According to Rees, Jessie fought hard to the very end and always believed that happiness was the key to her fight. She selflessly decided that the best way to bring joy to her fight, as well as that of others, was to create Joy Jars—small gift canisters packed with age-appropriate puzzles, games, and toys. Before she died, she delivered more than 3,000 to children sharing her battle against cancer. Her message: never ever give up, or "NEGU," which is the namesake of Jessie's foundation.
Since Jessie's passing, Rees, whose homebase is Orange County, Calif., has been hitting the road, partnering with 162 children's hospitals nationally to hand out Joy Jars to kids in need of a little pick-me-up amidst the rigors of being sick and away from home.
He personally delivered Joy Jar No. 22,000 in Boise on Wednesday, following trips to Johns Hopkins University and Duke University last week. Thanks to sponsorship from local home decor store The Horse Fly, Rees was in Boise to hand out Joy Jars to kids in St. Luke's pediatric oncology ward. He expects to hand out 50,000 jars by the end of the year.
"Her wish is that every kid gets a jar, and her wish is my goal," said Rees of his mission.
The idea behind Joy Jars may appear simple but it carries tremendous value for both the kids and their families during the toughest of times.
"It helps a kid feel special. It gives them hope. It gives them encouragement. It gives them joy. Jessie used to tell me when she fought cancer that it makes her feel lonely and limited. To get something while these kids sit in these hospital rooms and stare at the walls for hours, its pretty special."
Visit negu.org for more information.