BENEFITING: JUSTIN W JENNINGS FOUNDATION
ORGANIZER: JUSTIN W JENNINGS FOUNDATION
ernie felici wrote -
The mission of The Justin W. Jennings Foundation is to support and maintain Justin's Beach House where families with cancer can have a place of respite and enjoy some fun family time. It is a place of joy and peace at the beach.
Please consider supporting the Justin W Jennings Foundation by participating and becoming a fundraising Team Member for Justin's Beach House 5k Run and 2 Mile Walk, an epic event on Memorial Day Weekend in Bethany Beach, Delaware. Come out for one of the areas largest and best organized running events. The scenic run course takes you through the streets and down the boardwalk of Bethany Beach. This event sells out early every year so please don't delay in supporting the great cause. For more information about the event or JWJ Foundation, please visit www.JustinJennings.org
Justin's Story. Please Read.
On September 29, 1980 Justin W. Jennings was born in Wilmington, Delaware. The youngest of three children, Justin was your typical healthy, happy little boy who was maturing into a wonderful young man.
Since an early age, Justin had one dream and that was to attend Penn State. Everything Justin did - from playing baseball and golf, participating in student government and being an alter boy at church-was to help him attain his goal of attending Penn State. Upon hearing the news that his tumor was malignant, Justin’s first question to the doctors was, (which really was not a question, more of a statement to them) “I will be going to college”!
Justin was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in July of 1998, four weeks before he was to start his freshman year at Penn State University. Unfortunately, the doctors informed Justin that school would have to be postponed until after his surgery and treatments. This was a major disappointment for Justin, but he was not going to let this deter him from attending college. The logistics needed to make sure that Justin could still attend Penn State (but at the Delaware County Campus) during his treatments. It was, to say the least, a monumental task. But Justin did it.
That first semester for Justin was rough but his persistence and perseverance shined through! Justin was receiving daily radiation treatments to his head as well as receiving chemotherapy. Justin only missed one class during this time! There were days and nights that he was up vomiting and restless but he completed all of his assignments. It was only after missing one day’s worth of classes that Justin told his professors of his condition. At no point did he want anyone to know what he was dealing with for fear that he would be treated differently. His advisor promised Justin that he wouldn’t tell anyone without Justin’s permission. Justin earned all A’s and B’s that first semester!
Towards the end of December 1999 Justin was given some well-anticipated good news. All his MRI’s and blood work looked so good that he was told that, if he still wanted to, he could attend school at the Altoona Campus and his subsequent chemotherapy treatments could be done at intervals conducive to days off at Penn State. You cannot image the joy on Justin’s face at this wonderful news!
Happily, Justin set up his apartment for the spring semester at Penn State. Justin surprised everyone by how he felt and the joy he had at the little things in life. Justin asked his roommates not to tell anyone of his situation. Very few of his professors knew of his illness and those that did were asked by Justin not to make an issue of it or show him any special treatment. Once again, Justin shined through! His final grades for that semester were one-tenth of a point off from making Dean’s List! During this time of chemotherapy Justin’s body went through a lot, but he tried to maintain himself by going to the gym and working out when he felt up to it.
Chemotherapy finished up in March of ‘99 and Justin was looking forward to coming home. The summer of ’99 was fun for Justin. He worked at BE&K, an engineering and construction company, in their IS department. Attending Woodstock ’99 was the high point of his summer. It was a once in a lifetime adventure!
As summer progressed, preparations were being made for his return to Penn State. Justin’s doctors kept up with his MRI’s, PET scans and blood work, tests that always follow a cancer patient and all appeared fine. Justin wanted to go up on his own to school, without his family! Justin suffered a seizure in October-the tumor had recurred and a subsequent surgery was needed as soon as possible. Surgery was scheduled for November 16th.
Surgery and its recovery this time was quite different and Justin had his share of problems. Whenever there is surgery on the brain there is a chance of infection to the ménages. This happened to Justin in the form of bacterial meningitis. He spent 5 days back in the hospital and had to have a regiment of antibiotics that continued after he came home. However, that was not to be the end. Justin could not receive the chemotherapy that his body needed to fight the cancer due to his weakend state. He was still trying to recover but Justin was unable to keep food down. However, there were a couple of weeks around Christmas when Justin was feeling better. But in January of 2000 Justin learned that the tumor had branched out to five tumors and they were growing rapidly. He was told he had maybe a month to live. Penn State awarded Justin his alumni status and presented him with a “Certificate of Achievement” and the Nittany Lion Award on January 28, 2000.
This is when things turned around for Justin. A close friend worked for Nurses ‘n Kids (a home nursing care company) and suggested that Justin receive TPN, a nutritional supplement that is given through an IV. This made him strong enough to receive his much needed chemotherapy treatments. Justin made the decision not to return to his beloved Penn State for that semester. He continued to get stronger and was well enough to go to Florida once with his brother and another time with his friends during University of Delaware’s Spring Break.
Justin felt strong enough to make plans to return to Penn State in the fall. His schedule was confirmed, the apartment rented and football tickets paid for. Justin acquired a summer job at the beach - working construction no less - when he started to feel weak and tired. The headaches started and he had problems with his vision. Justin’s prognosis was bleak, but his doctor wanted to try another chemotherapy if Justin was up for it. It would mean a two-day stay in the hospital which was a battle with Justin. He finally agreed when he learned that he would be home in two days. Justin was weak and the chemotherapy took too much from him but two days later he was ready to go home. That was on June 9, 2000.
For the next 3 weeks Justin became weaker but continued to try to hide things. Justin didn’t want to die in the hospital and he didn’t really want anyone there but his family. Sunday June 25, 2000 began as all the previous days, 50 needles were labeled and ready to be administered to Justin. In the middle of the afternoon he started to have difficulty breathing. Justin died at 5:40 p.m. surrounded by the love of his family.
Justin was buried on June 29th, a bright, sunny day. On his headstone are his beloved Nittany Lion as well as the line “Don’t worry, be happy” from the Bobby McFarrin song, Justin’s theme through his short life.
Upon his death, Justin’s family started this foundation to bring to life Justin’s desire to help others. Justin spent his summers in the Bethany Beach area with his family. During his illness Justin was happy to have “the beach” as an escape, even if it was just for a weekend or the day after chemo.