EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was produced as part of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University’s South Jersey Information Equity Project fellowship and supported with funding from the Independence Public Media Foundation.
By Tyriq DeShields | AC JosepH Media
DELRAN — Unapologetic, purposeful, relentless. These were the words used to describe Jadon Phillips, a young man who passed too soon due to pediatric brain cancer.
The caring, adorable go-getter was described as a “goofball on the sideline but a monster on the field” by his mother, Caisse Gore. Jadon was found unresponsive in his bed on Christmas Eve in 2020.
After Jadon was found, he then spent 36 days and nights in the hospital, battling complications and needing multiple surgeries throughout his stay. He passed away on Feb. 1, 2022, 11 months after being diagnosed with glioblastoma, despite a successful biopsy to remove the brain tumor.
Less than six weeks later, Gore erected the Jadon Strong Foundation. She knew right away that her purpose had shifted from being his mother to honoring his legacy, helping other families who have the same struggle.
Jadon’s loving, energetic personality is now the driving force behind the work of the foundation. A seven-person team works tirelessly to build bridges and resources to share directly with families who are affected by pediatric brain cancer.
Alongside Gore is Jadon’s father Keith Phillips, co-founder; Vanessa Johnson, president; Ryan Gore, vice president; Justin Leonard, public relations; Jeremy Walker, legal council; and Jennifer Oyola, project manager. The foundation was officially licensed on March 9, 2022.
True to its mission, the foundation strings together events throughout the year with the intention of raising awareness, providing energetic, fun experiences as well as raising money to donate directly back to families in need.
Last Christmas, the foundation was able to connect with and provide toys for two young ones, Aaron and Isa, who are presently battling pediatric brain cancer.
Jadon Strong Foundation’s first annual “Night of Hope” gala took place on February 11, 2022, just more than a week after the anniversary of Jadon’s passing and a few weeks before the foundation’s anniversary.
“Yes, I think it was by design,” Gore said when asked if the gala was intentionally placed on that date. “My birthday is the third, two days after he passed. So, I kind of feel like I need something to lift my spirits around that time.”
Gore is an eighth-grade language arts teacher at the William Allen Middle School in Moorestown and was honored by the Burlington County Commissioners in March during Women’s History Month for her work with the nonprofit.
The gala, like other events the foundation has, is geared toward encompassing Jadon’s high energy character. The motto “All Gas No Brakes” is exactly who Jadon was as well as what the foundation stands for.
The goal is to curate events that allow people to smile, laugh, move around and have a good time because that’s what Jadon would have wanted. The official logo of the foundation is even an homage to Jadon.
It’s ASL for “I love you,” and was coined as Jadon’s conditions worsened and he lost some motor functionality. His father, Keith, used his hand as the reference point for the logo.
This year’s events include February’s gala, a 5k run/walk, ultimate frisbee tournament and family field day, and a car show. The 5k will take place May 21 and runners can sign up online.
Limited sizes and quantities of t-shirts will be available at the event. More information on all of these events and more can be found at the foundation website.
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