Jessie was only 11 years old when she decided to focus on bringing hope, joy and love to other kids fighting cancer, all while in the midst of fighting cancer herself. Her seemingly small act of selfless compassion began a NEGU movement that has now become the global mission of the Jessie Rees Foundation. Our volunteers continue to be at the heart of our success and we are so grateful for their hard work and for their dedication. We have been fortunate to have the support of so many individuals, local and worldwide, who are dedicated to encouraging kids ghting cancer, just like Jessie wished for.

One of these volunteers is Tahlia – Our Volunteer of the Month! 

Tahlia first heard about Jessie’s story around six years ago. She says, “I swam competitively for ten years (three of which with the Mission Viejo Nadadores), so news of Jessie’s diagnosis truly shook the swim community. At around the age of nine, my swim team and I began to fundraise for the JRF, and I fell in love with the cause and began to follow her journey. I still have my first TeamNEGU t-shirt from that fundraiser–though it’s a bit small now!”

Hearing of Jessie’s story deeply resonated with Tahlia and her family. She says, “We–along with families across the globe–have been impacted by cancer. For years, I was a part of the cause, but I knew I wanted to take my involvement to the next level. During my freshman year in the fall of 2016, I decided to form my own TeamNEGU chapter at Capistrano Valley HS. I had such an amazing time during the year that I volunteered at the Joy Factory for over 2 months during the summer. Though my time at the Joy Factory was brief, I helped in garnering new relationships with toy companies to donate to the JRF. Gaining experience in the workplace was fantastic, though I definitely enjoyed working with such amazing people the most (and being able to physically see the first toy donated from work I contributed was pretty cool too!). Moreover, I am beyond grateful to have been welcomed with open arms and  receive mentorship from the entirety of the staff along the way.”

To Tahlia, NEGU is a constant reminder for her to positively impact as many people as possible every single day, “I strive to spread compassion, kindness, and most of all, joy. When times become tough, I know to remind myself to Never Ever Give Up.”

When it comes to volunteering, she encourages everyone to “DO IT! I can’t stress it enough. There is always work to be done, lives to be impacted, and joy to be spread. Even if you’re tying blankets or sealing envelopes, every minute a volunteer puts in is another smile on a Courageous Kid’s face.” She says, “The Jessie Rees Foundation encouraged me to be the best person I can be. They were extremely welcoming and allowed me to help out in a huge way. Above all, it felt empowering to be treated as an equal at the JoyFactory, though I was barely a sophomore in high school and the youngest person there.”

Get to know Tahlia better…

When Tahlia is not doing homework, she’s either reading, catching up on her favorite shows, coordinating new events for my club, or sneaking into the JoyFactory after school to stuff a couple JoyJars before she has to head back to studying. On her favorite place to travel, Tahlia says, “Though I thoroughly enjoyed my recent end-of-summer trip up to Seattle, no family vacation is complete without my sister, who currently lives in Washington D.C. for college. Whenever we fly out to visit, I am able to enjoy the city and see my sister’s favorite spots.”

Now Jessie’s favorite game! WOULD YOU RATHER… never brush your teeth again or never shower again??

“That’s a tough one! I would have to say never brushing my teeth again…as long as I could use mouthwash or minty gum!”


We are so encouraged by all of the volunteers who take the time to encourage kids fighting cancer and we have been fortunate to have the support of so many individuals who are dedicated to encouraging kids fighting cancer. If you are interested in volunteering with us, please visit JESSIE.ORG/VOLUNTEERS