‘Love Like JJ:’ Parents of boy who died in sleep launches nonprofit to help other children

JJ went to sleep on a Friday night in January 2021. He would never wake up.
Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 10:19 PM EST
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WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - After losing their 9-year-old son unexpectedly, a Mason couple is on a mission to get answers about his death while also working to change the lives of other children in their son’s name.

In the eyes of those who knew him, JJ Day was a superstar. The Mason student’s bubbly and bright personality never took away from his loving and compassionate side.

“Just truly cared about everybody. If somebody was down, he would work to change that,” Jon Day, JJ’s father, said.

JJ’s sudden death came as a shock to his parents, Jon and Kristen Day, and his two sisters. On a Friday night in January 2021, JJ went to sleep and never woke up.

“One day you’re sad. One day you’re tired. The next day you’re motivated, so it’s been a complete rollercoaster,” Jon said.

By all accounts, JJ was happy and healthy. His parents do not know what caused his passing, but they are hoping to find out as they are now working with the Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood Foundation.

After learning they have a history of heart issues in the family, the SUDC Foundation is helping Jon and Kristen learn with testing.

“They’ve kind of been a support and advocate for us in helping us answers, so we’ve done some DNA banking,” Kristen said. “They’re going to take some of that DNA and take it to NYU so we can get some further genetic testing and try and find out what, if possible, what happened to JJ.”

Waiting for potential answers is painful, but Kristen and Jon said they have found a way to help their hearts begin to heal. They have launched a non-profit called the “Love Like JJ” Foundation.

The support so far has left them nearly speechless. Jessica Anderson jumped on board to help them right away by agreeing to become the secretary. She says she wants to help honor JJ since her son, Nate Hughes, was one of JJ’s best friends.

“The main mission of the foundation will be to help kids and families in the local communities, whether that’s through funding through various scholarships, helping where there’s a need,” Anderson said. “Grief is love, and when that love has to go somewhere else, I mean, what better way than to put it toward helping other people.”

Kristen and Jon do not know if finding out what took their son’s life will ease their heartache, but they are certain that running a charity in JJ’s honor is something their son would have wanted - a way for everyone to learn to love.

“He was meant to do great things, no doubt in my mind... and I think he’s still going to do them,” Jon said.

JJ’s parents hope their foundation can help give students scholarships, assist struggling families and even bring therapy dogs to the schools.

There are several fundraisers for Love Like JJ coming up, including one next week at the Liberty Center. Kendra Scott, Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern and The Frost Factory will be participating on March 9 and 10.

The fundraiser at Kendra Scott will take place in person from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. both days. Customers can also purchase items online using the code GIVEBACK-11MQ. Twenty percent of sales will go to Love Like JJ.

At Frost Factory, customers can order the “JJ Lemonade,” and 50-percent of every lemonade sale will benefit Love Like JJ.

The Rusty Bucket will be donating 15 percent of all food and beverage sales to Love Like JJ. Customers can show the flyer for dine-in or carry-out or use code LLJJ21 when ordering online.

For more details, visit the event page or the Love Like JJ Facebook page.

Kristen and Jon are also planning a 5K that will be scheduled for June.

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