A Born Creator & Entertainer

JJ made his bold entry into the world with a skip in his step, and in his case, a skip in his heartbeat. Born prematurely at 37 weeks, JJ began the fight for his life. After serious reactions to the bilirubin lights he was seen by a cardiologist who stabilized him with a first heart catheter at eight months and a second catheter at 2 ½ years – but still more was needed.  A few months later, JJ underwent open heart surgery and was diagnosed with Noonan’s Syndrome. Young, but a fighter, this showstopper was just starting the performance of his lifetime.

Making a Mark

His diagnosis gave them answers to the why, the what and the where, but many questions remained regarding how. How would they help JJ, how would the world accept JJ, how do they keep JJ safe, how long until the next surgery?

Camper JJ’s perseverance and spirit thorough his numerous health crises, an appendectomy before turning four years old, additional heart surgery at age five, and dental surgery at age six, have left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of his dedicated team of surgeons, doctors, and nurses.

A Rising Star

JJ was destined to perform and entertain.  At the age of three, he was performing all genres of dance and even started competing!

Tragically, at age seven, he was hit by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He had to relearn much, but his passion for dance remained strong. Seeing his conviction and fierce determination, JJ’s mom created a dance and cheer squad for him in partnership with the Special Olympics. Today, Camper JJ is one of our loudest and proudest Camp Korey cheerleaders!

Once at Camp Korey JJ’s natural talents were apparent to our counselors and fellow campers as they watched in delight as JJ dressed in full costume and brought the house down. JJ knows how to make you clap your hands!

Taking Center Stage

Camper JJ arrived at Camp’s gate when he was only seven years old during a skeletal dysplasia session. “I learned that everyone’s the same especially those with disabilities and that there are people here just like me was the first thing that I said to my nana,” says JJ.

Camp Korey allowed JJ to breathe, to embrace who he is, to make friends, to feel accepted. “I have created many new friends with all kinds of people and am not afraid of being different at Camp.” JJ is tapping into his creativity and bravely sharing his story so others can know they are not alone. “My story is about facing bullying and being little and turning into a giant dragon because that is how I see myself and Camp Korey helped me by realizing that I am not alone.”

“Possibility and curiosity are powerful tools,” shares Dallas Graham of Red Fred Project. In 2019, Camp Korey partnered with Graham and his Red Fred Project to help JJ make a dream come true. JJ wanted to be a published author and share his compelling story of inclusion, diversity, acceptance, and overcoming adversity with us all.

His mom credits this partnership for making a lasting impact on his life. “Dropping my son off for a week at Camp Korey knowing he doesn’t have to worry about being sick, short or his head injury, that he can just be JJ to run and play means the world to me. Knowing that he is helping others through the Red Fred Project and how Camp Korey gave him this opportunity is everything to him.”

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Camp Korey Gives

Whether through family weekends, summer sessions, year-round outreach programs, unique opportunities, special events or while children are in the hospital – Camp Korey gives. We are more than a summer camp; we are a family. Our hope is to provide families in need with the tools and resources they need to add courage, light, laughter, and connection in their lives. Our many thanks to Dallas Graham of Red Fred Project for your partnership and for helping us celebrate our dear friend JJ.