It’s just amazing to think about what kids can achieve when they put their minds to it. If a responsible and caring adult is there to guide them, the sky’s the limit.
When Jenna was 12, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor, her family, friends and classmates were understandably devastated, but everyone hoped for the best. What happened because of this remarkable girl would change the lives of sick children nationwide…
Jenna lived in the Fort Mill area, and was loved and cherished by her parents and friends. Jenna was full of life, with a smile which lit up even the darkest of rooms, this pre-teen had her whole life ahead of her. She was excited for the future, but fate had other plans for this remarkable little girl.
Legacy Live On
Jenna’s untimely passing affected a lot of people, really badly. The school and particularly the class she was in was very close knit. The kids in the class were close, there was no bullying, and guess who was one of the most popular girls in the class? Always chirpy and always helpful, Jenna was a bit of a class legend…
Jenna not only inspired her peers during her lifetime, she has also continued to do so in her death. For starters, a former teacher named her daughter Jenna, and she also inspired her league soccer team to score 10 goals after they trained extra hard in their honor. When Jenna died, everyone felt a terrible loss in their hearts.
Paving The Way
Soon after she was diagnosed, Jenna took a turn for the worse and needed to be treated by doctors at a building beside what now is the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. Jenna could only have imagined in her wildest dreams what facilities became available after she passed, and actually thanks to her…
Following her death, Jenna’s friends and classmates embarked on their first fundraising project. They managed to raise a staggering $50,000, which went straight to build the new children’s hospital room, which was lacking in the city until then. It’s located on the 11th floor, in the oncology unit, and is painted in Jenna’s favorite color, periwinkle.
Jenna’s friends seemed to constantly be working on one fundraising project or another following her death. Maybe it was cathartic for them, and took their minds off of the tragedy. Whatever the case, these kids raised more cash. This time it went towards a tribute page for Jenna in what would have been her senior yearbook. When the kids collected more than they needed they donated the funds to the Levine hospital…
Morgan Witherspoon, Jenna’s older sister, may only be 21, but she is many years ahead of herself. In her capacity as Clemson University’s ‘Clemson Miracle’ Executive Director, the school’s largest nonprofit, Morgan has raised a lot of money in her short career. Most of that cash she raised for the Greenville Health System’s Children’s Hospitals was inspired by Jenna.
Morgan is a very passionate person as well as an ace fundraiser. “It’s easy for me to talk about, because I’m passionate,” she said, “My family benefited from programs at the hospital. It’s cool to be able to spread that love a little bit.” A little bit? Morgan raised a record-breaking amount so she’s also clearly modest…
As if folks weren’t thrilled enough last year when the school raised a record amount of money, this year they were ecstatic. So far in 2018, they have raised a stunning $235,000, the highest amount from any single contribution to the hospital from a university organization.
Thanks To Jenna
According to Morgan, the spike in funds raised is down to Jenna, and to Morgan’s mind, it’s as simple as that. “It definitely started when Jenna was diagnosed,” Morgan said, “After she passed, our family continued to give back.” And give back they did, in a very big way…
More recently, Jenna’s friends had a great idea as to how they could raise even more funds. By culminating Clemson and the University of South Carolina, Morgan was able to stay in touch with Jenna’s friends who told her about their dance marathon initiative. “That’s how I knew I wanted to be plugged in here at Clemson, to give back and continue her legacy,” Morgan said.
Dance All Night
The event, which took place in February, saw 500 students participating in a dance marathon that lasted for 12 hours straight and went throughout the night till the morning. Each student raised at least $100, although many students raised a whole lot more. They didn’t even sleep all night, or sit down…
Honor The Kids
Morgan was touched by the fundraiser, and especially by the dedication the students displayed. “You’re standing for kids who can’t,” she said. “You’re standing to honor the kids who are in the hospital struggling.” It was always hard for Morgan to hold back tears as she felt the loss of her sister so acutely.
Keeping Jenna Close
There’s no doubt that Morgan has dealt with her sister’s death by busying herself constantly with fundraisers which will benefit other sick children. “I got to tell her story,” she said, “It’s a great way to keep her close.” adding, “It definitely shaped who I am, my passions and what I want to do with my life.”
For all her hard work and dedication, Morgan was named as Miss Nation Ford High School in 2015. that fundraiser raised awareness for an organization which helps sick children in South Carolina called Make-A-Wish. They are the ones who took Morgan on an all-expenses-paid Disney trip, soon after Jenna passed, sparking her interest in fundraising and helping others.
Morgan has worked so hard that Clemson’s chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa became student organization of the year and also won that acclaim once again a year later. Morgan even represented her school in Colombia as Gov. Henry McMaster proclaimed the “South Carolina Dance Marathon Day,” which will raise not thousands, but millions of dollars for children’s hospitals nationwide…
What started as just a small school project in Fort Mill has gained so much momentum, it has turned into a monster; A good monster. Those sparks from Morgan have spread awareness nationwide and many more dance marathons have been held across the nation.
Jennifer Jameson, Children’s Miracle Network manager at the Greenville children’s hospital, spoke about the impact that Jenna’s death, and the fundraisers which ensued, have had, “The students are incredible and their hard work and determination will truly leave a legacy. Countless patients and families will be impacted by their generosity.” She said.
It’s hard, almost impossible to quantify, but Jenna’s tragic death, along with Morgan’s hard work has saved tens if not hundreds of kids’ lives over the years. The nationwide fundraisers, along with the brilliant initiatives have raised literally thousands of dollars, and relieved a lot of suffering for a lot of kids and their families.
Morgan couldn’t be happier or more fulfilled from the work she does, even if she still misses her sister Jenna. “I want people to see that even though we’re young, we have the opportunity to do big things,” Morgan said. “We are helping kids we don’t know and may never meet.