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When love is not enough

Jennifer Ashleigh Children’s Charity (JACC) is an Ontario-based charitable organization born in 1990 out of the love of a grandfather, Norm Clements, for his precious granddaughter, Jennifer Ashleigh Clements, who died at six months of age from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

During Jennifer’s illness, her family saw many families struggle not only with the emotional journey of having a seriously ill child, but with numerous out-of-pocket expenses not covered by extended health benefits – expenses that accumulate when a child is hospitalized or seeking treatment. They also saw the effects these stresses had on families’ relationships, time with their children, and each other.

Not one to stand by and do nothing, Norm Clements founded JACC shortly after Jennifer passed away and, for more than 30 years since, the organization has been providing financial assistance to seriously ill, financially disadvantaged Ontario children and their families with emergency household expenses, groceries, respite care, various forms of physical therapy for disabled children, medications not covered, medical supplies and more.

Since the organization’s inception, thanks to incredible donors and supporters, JACC has helped over 15,000 seriously ill children across Ontario while their family struggled financially to afford their care and treatment.

“Our mission is to improve the quality of life for seriously ill children and their families when love is not enough,” says Mary-Anne Herrema, Development Manager at Jennifer Ashleigh Children’s Charity.


Support from the Gay Lea Foundation

In the winter of 2020, JACC was the recipient of a $5,000 grant from the Gay Lea Foundation, which went on to have a direct impact on the lives of four seriously ill, financially disadvantaged children and their families:

Joseph, 16-years old – Markham, Ont.

Joseph has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and a developmental delay. The support he received from the Gay Lea Foundation provided crucial speech therapy to help him communicate his needs with those around him.

Roman, 1-year old – Thornton, Ont.

Roman was born with Cloacal Exstrophy (a severe birth defect wherein much of the abdominal organs are exposed), as well as Spina Bifida. Support from the Gay Lea Foundation provided nutritious groceries for Roman and his family.

Leyla, 6-years old – Mississauga, Ont.

Leyla was born with Cerebral Palsy and Spastic Triplegia (spastic movement in three of her limbs).  Support from the Gay Lea Foundation provided crucial physiotherapy to help her with her range of movement.

Caitlin, 18-months old – North York, Ont.

Caitlin has been diagnosed with Atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome and kidney disease. The support from the Gay Lea Foundation provided nutritious groceries to keep food on the table for Caitlin and her family, while additional funding from JACC helped with medications not covered by OHIP.

“Thank you for your generous support of these children,” says Herrema. “We could not have helped them without you.”

Shortly after providing support for young Caitlin and her family, Jennifer Ashleigh Children’s Charity received a letter of thanks from Caitlin’s mother, which they have shared with the Gay Lea Foundation (see below).  

“Please know that the Gay Lea Foundation is the reason that we were able to provide the financial assistance to this family and others!” says Herrema.

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