Reporting Lisa Sigell
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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Jessie Joy Rees is the little girl who inspired so many others with her amazing spirit, even as she battled brain cancer.
Yes, Jessie lost her battle several months ago, but her goal to spread joy is only getting bigger.
I once asked Jessie why she was always thinking of others and not herself. She said because that is not what it is about.Now her legacy lives on through others, who continue to spread her message of joy, hope, and love to kids who are fighting — just like she did.
The countdown is on.
“I’m doing 9,996,” said one of the volunteers packing and stuffing to reach a goal that would certainly make Jessie proud.
“Jess, this is for you, baby. We love you, we miss you,” said Jessie’s dad, Erik Rees.
It was a year ago that we first introduced you to Jessie — a 12-year-old battling brain cancer. She had just started a foundation with her family.
The mission was NEGU — Never Ever Give Up. It included making her JoyJars, which were filled with everything from toys to nail polish — all to bring smiles to kids fighting cancer.
Back then Jessie was stuffing her JoyJars at home.
“Then it grew to our garage. And… today with have this,” Erik said, referring to the new Jessie Rees Foundation headquarters.
“We call it the Joy Factory, because you can’t come in here and not smile,” said Jessie’s mom, Stacey Rees.
It’s a room full of love; a tribute to a little girl who gave so much without asking for anything in return.
Jessie fought hard, but lost her own battle in January.
“I tell people that I’m peacefully empty. I’m at peace, because I know where my daughter is at. But I’m empty because I miss her,” Erik said, adding, “But every day she inspires me, because I get the honor of kind of carrying this message on on her behalf. ”
“That’s what she would have wanted. She wouldn’t want us to sit around and sulk, she would have wanted us to put a smile on and do something for other kids,” Stacey said.
Jessie had big dreams and now they are all coming true at the Joy Factor. The JoyJars made there have been sent to kids fighting cancer all across the country — more than 100 hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses. They are even making their way across the world, spreading joy From Germany to South Africa.
Jessie’s goal was that every kid fighting cancer would receive a JoyJar and be encouraged to never ever give up,” Erik said.
Now Jessie has more help than ever from the nearly 150,000 fans on Facebook to the littlest members of the NEGU team, like Cade, who is fighting a brain tumor as well.
Olympic gold medalist Kaitlin Sandeno is also part of the team. She got close to Jessie during treatment and now carries her message as proudly as she carries her medals.
The idea is all about hope – Jessie’s hope for other kids. It can be seen in the eyes of the volunteers, the love of her parents and the promise of joy, stuffed, sealed and packed away in jars.
“Instead of focusing on never ever giving up for Jessie, now we’re never ever giving up for the other kids fighting, because that’s what she wanted. To honor her, to keep her legacy alive, we’re going to do that,” Stacey said.
“There it is, number 10,000,” said Erik, holding the 10,000th JoyJar made. “So amazing, so amazing, what an honor.”
That milestone jar was going to be placed on special shelf in the Joy Factory.
For information on JoyJars visit www.jessie.org.
» Girl Spreads Joy To Others While Battling Cancer
» Girl Faces Cancer With Courage, Hope And Unyielding Love
» Thousands Gather To Remember 12-Year-Old Jessie Joy Rees
» Girl Who Spread Joy And Hope To Thousands Loses Battle With Brain Cancer
» Jessie’s Facebook Page
» Learn More About the Jessie Rees Foundation