I sit here on the eve of a new year thinking about everything that has happened since 2010. As we approach the 5th anniversary of the founding of CJSTUF, we also mark the 5th year since Charlotte Jennie’s death from a brain tumor. In that way, January has become a time for profound reflection.
I am grateful for all that we have been able to accomplish in five years. As we noted in our 2013 Annual Report, we have provided support in the form of meals and financial assistance to thousands of individuals. In 2014 alone, we fed over 4000 people through the Lunch Bunch program at Children’s Hospital of Richmond. In 2015, we will distribute our 200th $500 financial assistance grant. In 2014, we also expanded our reach to the Charlottesville area, providing assistance to over 20 families served by UVA Health Systems.
As our visibility in the community has grown, we have been given great opportunities to share our story and receive support from generous donors such as the Deep Run Marathon Dance, The Richmond Area Goddard Schools, and the many individual donors who helped us exceed our fundraising goals each year of participation in Richmond’s Amazing Raise. As it has been from the start, these larger gifts grow from the efforts of just a few people. It is the Network…the friends and family who supported us in 2009…who have helped this vision become a reality. It is the expansion of the Network that helps our vision continue.
Unfortunately, this expansion and visibility in the community has also increased demand for our services. We currently have over 20 families waiting for financial assistance. While we were successful in raising the money for which we budgeted in 2014, our waiting list exceeds our means at this time. We are committed in 2015 to pursue grants and sponsorship funding that will help us achieve (and exceed) our financial goals. Our journey continues and our energy is renewed!
Each year in January, we look for specific ways to honor Charlotte’s memory outside of donations to the foundation. At her memorial service in 2010, we released hundreds of pink and purple balloons into the sky. Watching those bouquets of color reach for the heavens, I was struck at her memorial service by the tangible symbol of support this portrayed. Much like the balloons in Pixar’s Up raised Carl’s home and saved it from imminent destruction, each balloon released by a member of our Network lifted our hearts and our spirits at a time when our grief left us heavy and burdened. Every year since, we have honored Charlotte’s day of passing (January 7) by releasing a few balloons outside our home with a collection of close friends and family.
In this spirit, the work of the foundation lifts families. We can’t lift their entire house with our offering of help and hope, but we can lift a heart. We can lighten the load of a mother who has spent 10 days in the hospital at her daughter’s side by offering a hot meal. We can ease the worry of a family whose child is facing three years of leukemia treatment by putting $500 towards their mortgage this month.
This year, we would like to mark the 5th anniversary of Charlotte’s death and the founding of CJSTUF in a slightly different way. Instead of releasing balloons, we are going to light candles. We hope you will join us. Much like the balloon analogy, when we light a candle, we provide a beacon to families in their time of darkness. Perhaps one candle cannot guide a steamship into a safe harbor, but it can lead one family out of the darkness. It can give warmth and guidance along the path for at least a few. And while one candle may not do much, think of the power that we all might have in lighting those candles together. Imagine the glow that 1000 candles could provide on a cold winter night.
Please join us on January 7th, honoring CJ in whatever way feels right to you. If you wish to share (especially on social media), please use the hashtag #Light4CJSTUF in your post. We are active on Facebook and Twitter (@cjstuf).
Thank you, Network, for always being there in our time of need. Everything the last five years has brought to CJSTUF is possible because of your generous spirit.
With love and peace,
CJSTUF Board Member & Co-Founder