Irvine-based foundation brings joy to kids fighting cancer

Erik and Stacey Rees’ 11-year-old daughter, Jessica “Jessie” Joy Rees, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2011. As she was leaving the hospital after undergoing treatment, Jessie asked her parents about the sick children in the hospital who didn’t get to go home each day. Her dad told her that some kids had to stay in the hospital for treatment.

She then asked something that would change the Rees’ lives forever: “How can we help them?”

Jessie went home that day and created the first of what would become her JoyJars – 64-ounce plastic jars stuffed with new, age-appropriate toys, games and activities. At her next treatment, she began delivering them to the kids at the hospital and encouraging them to NEGU – Never Ever Give Up.

Jessie lost her fight to cancer in 2012, but in those last 10 months of her life, she filled more than 3,000 JoyJars and encouraged thousands of kids to NEGU.

Today, the Jessie Rees Foundation continues Jessie’s legacy, serving as a beacon of hope and encouragement to kids and their families fighting cancer, especially those who are unable to leave the hospital while seeking treatment. The foundation is housed at the Irvine-based JoyFactory and oversees Mobile JoyFactories, where more than 40,000 volunteers have created 450,000 JoyJars that have been delivered to children locally, nationally and internationally.

In addition to JoyJars, the organization reaches kids fighting cancer, their siblings and parents through ClubNEGU, a free, 18-month program that provides monthly boosts of joy. Gifts are delivered throughout this time to provide encouragement and remind them they are not alone.

In August, the organization hosted FAMtastic, an event in Irvine for 48 local families that have children battling cancer.

In September, in honor of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the organization will be holding the NEGU Golf Classic on Sept. 18 at Coto de Caza Golf & Racquet Club and launching its #iNEGU Challenge. Each time someone writes iNEGU on their hands or holds up a sign and posts a photo on social media tagged #iNEGU, the organization receives $25 from a donor to create and deliver a JoyJar to a child in the hospital.

The funds from this year’s challenge will be used to create and deliver holiday-themed Winter Wonderful JoyJars for kids who are unable to be at home to celebrate the holidays. They also will fund the Hope for the Holidays program, providing $1,000 checks to families.

Jessie believed every child fighting cancer deserved joy, the opportunity to smile and to be encouraged to Never Ever Give Up. The Jessie Rees Foundation continues Jessie’s legacy every day. To volunteer or make a donation, visit

– Submitted by Jennifer Baker-Asiddao, Jessie Rees Foundation

MCAS Tustin Young Marines honor Navajo Code Talkers from World War II

The MCAS Tustin Young Marines joined more than 175 fellow Young Marines youth members and adult volunteers from across the country in Window Rock, Arizona, on Aug. 14 to honor and learn from the World War II heroes, the Navajo Code Talkers, and their families.

Every year on Aug. 14, the Navajo Nation celebrates an elite group of World War II veterans, the Navajo Code Talkers. These remarkable patriots served their country by transmitting top-secret messages across enemy lines using the Navajo language as code – the only code unbroken by the Japanese during World War II.

To date, only three of the original 29 veterans remain.

Since 2006 (except during the pandemic), the Young Marines have traveled to Arizona each year to celebrate the Navajo Code Talkers and to meet the few remaining survivors and listen to their stories.

The Young Marines worked as escorts for the special veterans. They planned and participated in a community service cleanup at the Navajo Nation Zoo. The group also climbed the Navajo Code Talkers Monument in Window Rock. A major activity during the three days of service was to march in the Navajo Code Talker Day Parade.

The Navajo Code Talkers took part in every assault the U.S. Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945. They transmitted messages by telephone and radio in their native language, a code that the Japanese never broke.

The Young Marines is a national youth organization for boys and girls from age 8 through high school graduation. For more information, visit

– Submitted by Young Marines

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