YARMOUTH, NS – Jadon Robinson’s smile was a gift – a gift the Yarmouth County teenager gave as graciously to strangers as he did to family and friends.
He was a big boy. A tough footballer. And yet, his heart was as soft and squishy as a marshmallow.
He was a people person, giving his time to everyone from children to the elderly.
He loved sports and played football, soccer, hockey, baseball, etc. He was always a team player, a pleasure to coach and was usually the one with the biggest smile.
When he died aged 17 following a single motor vehicle collision in November 2015, his death was not only a huge loss to his family and friends, but also to the community. , which extends beyond the county boundaries of Yarmouth.
Steve Berry, a close friend and school mentor to Jadon, says the day of the teenager’s funeral he had an idea. When he shared it with Jadon’s family, everyone agreed it was the perfect way to mark the teenager’s legacy.
The idea was to create a fund in memory of Jadon – the JStrong Fund – which would help young people in Yarmouth County access sports and recreational activities by helping them pay the registration fees.
The fund now also offers sponsorships for teams, programs and tournaments, and supported a learn-to-swim program at an elementary school.
COVID has forced time out for fundraisers
In the first two years, over $100,000 had already been raised for the fund. Three major fundraisers were held each year – a ball tournament, a golf tournament and a street hockey tournament.
But then the COVID pandemic called for a major downtime.
Marla Robinson-Pyne – Jadon’s sister – says that due to restrictions on gatherings and activities, they were unable to hold their major fundraisers. For two years, there was no major inflow of money into the fund; although when things started to open up, the fund was helping young people again.
“At the beginning, everything was closed, so nothing went into the fund, nothing came out,” she says. “But since last year we have had many sports and clubs that have been able to open, with restrictions changed. Many children still needed help with registration fees. The teams needed help.
That’s why everyone is grateful that the fundraisers are happening again this year. The annual JStrong Softball Tournament takes place July 29-31 at the Hebron Recreation Complex and other local fields. The golf tournament returns to Yarmouth Links on August 11. And in late September, the JStrong Cup street hockey tournament will return to Main Street, with championship games at the Mariners Center outdoor arena.
Anticipated increase in demand for funds
Robinson-Pyne says fundraising is more important than ever as they anticipate increased demand for the fund.
“We are seeing a huge increase in the number of people asking for help. It’s a tough time and a lot of people are struggling,” she says, with higher costs for everything from gas to food. “They struggle to be able to maintain a life we had before COVID.”
Also because people have felt isolated during the pandemic, families want to have fun again.
“There were many young people who missed two years of activity. Now they’re back in full force,” Robinson-Pyne says.
“I know things can change in a day. COVID has also taught a lot of people that some things that are here today might not be there tomorrow. I think a lot of people are enjoying all the fun things life has to offer now,” she says. “We are able to help as much as we can provide. That’s why these fundraisers are really important.”
She notes that there are many ways people can offer their support, even if they aren’t attending the event. They can shop at the canteen, buy t-shirts, bid on auction items, buy a 50/50 ticket, donate items, share event information on social media, volunteer, and more. .
A true community fund
Steve Berry, one of the main organizers of JStrong events, says everyone is excited to see the events return.
“Everyone you talk to is eager to volunteer. Or you drop a letter at a business for prizes and before you leave the door you have a donation,” he says.
The community is the foundation of the fund.
“People know where their money is going when they give. People respect that,” Berry says. “Our community is generous and none of this could happen without it.”
When Berry thinks of Jadon, his smile is at the top of the list.
“It’s just that constant smile,” he says, saying that Jadon spread joy when he was alive and still does after he died.
“I get letters and messages from parents saying thank you so much, things like ‘my child would never have come out of his shell’ or ‘we couldn’t have afforded it, now our child is part of a team .’ He is always the smile maker.
Jadon always made people laugh. If someone was down, he told them, “We got you.” The JStrong Fund, Berry says, epitomizes who Jadon was.
“That ability to put smiles on people’s faces and let them know ‘we got you,’ we’re here if you need us,” Berry says. “It’s as simple as filling out this application and the families and these children need not lose their pride. It’s not just for a certain socio-economic group. We all need help sometimes and that’s why we’re here.
help and heal
The fund also played an important role in the grieving process.
“Through this fund, we can remember Jadon and the difference he made in his life and continues to make by helping others,” Robinson-Pyne said.
“But that’s only possible through every person who volunteers, donates and supports us. We channel the efforts, but it’s all the others who make it possible.
Jadon attended Arcadia Consolidated School, Maple Grove Education Center, and Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School.
He completed his school years at Sir John A MacDonald Secondary School, now called Bay View High School, in Tantallon, where he played football – a sport that came late in his life but had a huge impact.
Always spreading smiles
At Bay View’s annual graduation, a memorial award and scholarship in Jadon’s name is awarded each year.
In the student car park, his parking space is always reserved for him. It’s been like that since his death.
“Nobody parks in this parking space, it’s always theirs,” says his sister. “Everyone remembers him fondly.”
“I know Jadon is with me,” she said. “I know he’s a part of everything I do. And I know he’s proud and very happy that his life continues to contribute.”
Berry agrees, calling the JStrong Fund something beautiful out of something tragic.
“Although we lost him, in a way, Jadon is still doing a lot,” Berry says. “He may not be there physically, but we’re giving back exactly what he would want to do.”
“He must be looking down smiling.”