Olympic Athletes Bring JoyJars to Pediatric Cancer Patients

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Jessie Rees Foundation JoyJars

Rebecca Soni, Olympic Swimmer (left), and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, Olympic Gymnast (right), share their stories of Olympic triumphs with a pediatric cancer patient in the hematology/oncology playroom at Miller Children’s.

On Tuesday, July 16, the Jessie Rees Foundation paid a special visit to Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach with two former Olympic Games participants. Rebecca Soni, American swimmer, and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, Canadian gymnast, accompanied various Anthem Blue Cross volunteers from across California in bringing joy and providing a distraction to hospitalized patients and their families by distributing JoyJars stuffed with toys.

As part of the the Jessie Rees Foundation’s “All Star” program, Soni and Hopfner-Hibbs were on-hand to distribute JoyJars and NEGU (Never Ever Give Up) Power Packs to every patient. 

Each JoyJar carries 15 – 20 new, age-appropriate toys within its brightly covered sealed jar. The two Olympians visited all three of Miller Children’s playrooms, while on their tour through the hospital, and shared their experiences with patients and their families. Soni, who is a six-time Olympic medalist, brought along two of her gold medals to show patients.

“The opportunity to participate in something like this is so unreal and rewarding,” says Hopfner-Hibbs. “Handing these kids one of the JoyJars and watching their smiles grow is something that you can’t explain. Being able to give them that moment of happiness, in a time when they might not be feeling all too happy, is just awesome. It’s been so cool to be a part of it.”

The Jessie Rees Foundation is a pediatric cancer foundation inspired by 12-year-old Jessie Rees. Jessie, who fought two brain tumors for more than 10 months, passed away in January of 2013. During her courageous fight, Jessie focused on spreading hope, joy and love to other kids fighting cancer. She knew that having cancer made you feel lonely and limited, so she chose to spread love stuffed in her JoyJars. The foundation she started now serves 202 children’s hospitals and every Ronald McDonald House in America.

Jessie Rees started distributing JoyJars in 2011 during her fight against inoperable brain cancer. The NEGU Power Packs are given specifically to patients with cancer and includes an array of items to encourage them in their fight to “never ever give up,” which was Jessie’s wish.

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