One of the most powerful and inspirational speeches across the American sports landscape was given at the inaugural ESPY Awards on March 4, 1993, when Jim Valvano was presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. There, he addressed an audience filled with his friends, family and contemporaries. Of course, Valvano had been diagnosed with terminal cancer — the award an acknowledgement of his condition — and passed away less than two months later.
During that speech, Valvano announced the creation of the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. It‘s motto: “Don‘t Give Up. Don‘t Ever Give Up.”
Eighteen years later, nearly to the day, 12-year-old Jessica Joy Rees — known to those who loved her as simply Jessie — was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given just 12-to-18 months to live. As her mom and dad grappled with the news few can comprehend and considered treatment plans that would be extraordinarily taxing to their daughter‘s young body, Jessie wasn‘t thinking about herself. No, Jessie was thinking about others.
In those moments, Jessie was inspired to spread love, hope and most importantly care to her fellow pediatric cancer patients at Children‘s Hospital of Orange County (Calif.) when she created Jessie‘s JoyJars®.
JoyJars are for kids actively fighting cancer under the age of 19. Each one of Jessie‘s JoyJars are age and gender specific and filled with new toys and activities to help a child fighting cancer smile and feel loved.
Each JoyJar comes complete with Jessie‘s own take on Valvano‘s famous words: “Never Ever Give Up.”
From those empowering words, the Jessie Rees Foundation was born and its motto took the form of the acronym NEGU. Its mission is to encourage every kid fighting cancer to never ever give up.
In support of that mission, Spire Motorsports and Corey LaJoie, through the backing of a private philanthropic foundation, have partnered with the Jessie Rees Foundation to serve as the primary sponsor of LaJoie‘s No. 7 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for six NASCAR Cup Series races in 2023.
“The Jessie Rees Foundation is incredibly honored to be the primary sponsor of Spire Motorsports and Corey LaJoie‘s No. 7 Chevrolet for six races during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season,” said Erik Rees, Jessie‘s proud dad and co-founder of the Jessie Rees Foundation. “This exciting partnership will not only expand awareness of our mission to encourage kids and families impacted by childhood cancer to ‘Never Ever Give Up,‘ (NEGU) it will allow us to deliver JoyJars to kids fighting cancer throughout the season with Corey and his team. In addition, we are extremely humbled by the unwavering generosity from a donor‘s foundation, who wish to remain anonymous, to allow this partnership to take place. Together we will keep curing bad days caused by childhood cancer.”
The Team NEGU paint scheme will be featured aboard LaJoie‘s No. 7 Chevrolet at the following races in 2023:
Auto Club Speedway — February 26Martinsville Speedway — April 16Daytona International Speedway — August 26Bristol Motor Speedway — September 16Las Vegas Motor Speedway — October 15Phoenix Raceway — November 5
The Jessie Rees Foundation fulfills its mission by connecting with families, bringing awareness to their stories, offering them a network of helpful resources and sending the entire family continual doses of encouragement throughout their journey.
Its national vision is to become a symbol of help and hope in the childhood cancer space so every child fighting cancer and their families have the support and encouragement to never ever give up during their courageous fight. The global vision is to be able to say “yes” to any children‘s hospital request for Jessie‘s JoyJars.
“Thanks to some very generous individuals with big hearts, I‘m fortunate enough to spread the mission of NEGU and help bring joy and hope to pediatric cancer patients across the country,” said LaJoie. “As Christmas approaches, it‘s important to remind myself and anyone who will listen, there are so many courageous families fighting a battle like no other. During this Christmas and holiday season, I‘m encouraging my friends, family and fans to contribute to the Jessie Rees Foundation by sponsoring a JoyJar and help bring a smile to the face of a child who is fighting cancer.
“As part of our partnership, I‘ll spend some time visiting hospitals with pediatric cancer units to offer love, encouragement and hope to those who can use it the most. We have a special opportunity and we‘re going to make the most of it.”
To learn more about the Jessie Rees Foundation and sponsor a JoyJar, please visit negu.org/coreylajoie.
— Spire Motorsports —