A group of Cal State Fullerton alumni including CSUF baseball alumni and current San Francisco Giants minor league pitcher John Gavin, will be hosting a joy drive on on Nov. 27 along Titan Walk for the Jessie Rees Foundation.
“We’re asking people to bring in small toys and anything they can to help out and help put a smile on a kid’s face. At the end of the day, that what it’s all about, is helping these kids get through a tough time in their lives,” Gavin said.
In 2016, eight-year-old Coben Swanson, who has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, signed a letter of commitment to the CSUF baseball team through the help of Team IMPACT, an organization that pairs children with athletic teams in an effort to build a support group.
“A child signs the national letter of intent, accepting the responsibility of being a teammate. It’s a nice experience, it’s inclusive, it’s welcoming and it really kicks off their relationship,” said Lynn LaRocca, case manager and licensed independent social worker for Team IMPACT.
Since meeting Swanson, Gavin has put in effort to raise awareness for children who are battling all types of cancer and chronic illnesses.
Gavin has kept close ties with the Swanson family and in a trip to visit them in January, he was introduced to the organization known as Negu, or the Jessie Rees Foundation that is based in Irvine, California.
“He opened this jar and I didn’t really know what it was. Inside this jar it had a bunch of small toys, it had bracelets and other stuff like that and I was like, ‘What is that?’ And he said, ‘Oh, It’s my joy jar. I get one every once in a while,” Gavin said.
Negu, short for “Never Ever Give Up,” was founded after 12-year-old Jessica Joy Rees battled two brain tumors. Her desire to help others led to the creation of “Joy Jars.”
Reese, with permission from her parents, would personally create 3,000 jars in her 10-month battle, which were sent to several children who were also fighting cancer.
After passing in 2012, her family made sure to continue what their daughter had started which had impacted the lives of other children and their family.
Fullerton alumni Tyler Harper, Taylor Pyrell, Trevor Mitsch and Bharbie Yadab are also partnering up with Negu in order to contribute to the joy that the jars bring to children.
The group decided as a whole to use the Fullerton campus for the fundraiser as it is a familiar area for themselves. However, they also view this as an opportunity to reach a wide variety of ages to provide more knowledge and awareness.
“We wanted to spread awareness in the college demographic and be able to help out with finding resources in the college,” Gavin said.
On Nov. 27, online donations made to Negu and small toy donations such as toy cars, small action figures and new socks will be collected and given out by the group in hopes of being a part of ensuring a child is given joy this coming holiday season, Gavin said.
“A smile can really go a long way in a kid’s life,” Gavin said.