Twinsburg family honors daughter's memory through foundation

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Courtney Jones holds up a gift during Christmas. She died from complications due to leukemia in April 2018.

TWINSBURG – Alisha Jones recalled the blessings of Thanksgivings past with family.

“My kids, they loved anticipating when family come to the house, and the smell of food that would wake them up, and having yummy food and sides, which they would eat for the next couple of days,” Jones said. “It ushers a cozy time of year.”

That family includes Jones, her husband Cordell, her 16-year-old son Corey, a junior at Twinsburg High School, and daughter Courtney, who died in 2018.

This year’s Thanksgiving will be quiet due to the pandemic, Jones said.

From left, cousin Kendall Massey, Courtney Jones and Corey Jones spend a day in a pumpkin patch.

“Usually we would have the big family gathering, with the biggest turkey we could find with sides and pies,” she said. “I think this year it will be very small. It will be myself, husband, and son. We may deliver meals to the grandparents to make sure they stay inside and safe. There will be a lot of Zooming and phone calls to try to keep connected. It will be a lazy, carefree day. We will still have turkey, stuffing and dessert, it will just be small, and we will concentrate on what we do have to be thankful for. We will try to stay uplifted. And we will focus on getting to 2021, and getting out of 2020.”

The holidays can be tough on families when a loved on dies, Jones said.

“The loss becomes so punctuated, so amplified during the holidays,” Jones said.

Jones said Courtney “was so uplifting.”

“She was the life of the party, and that’s why it is so tough on the holidays, because she loved to celebrate,” Jones said. “She knew she was blessed. She wanted to help kids fighting cancer. ‘Mommy,’ she told me, ‘when I’m done with my cancer, I want to help other kids.’ She thought she would beat it. She was serious about it, she meant it. She talked about the things she wanted to buy them. In the spirit of giving, she wanted to be that child.”

The Jones family, from left, include Cordell, son Cory, daughter Courtney, and mother Alisha.

A somber diagnosis

Courtney was 10 years old when she was diagnosed with leukemia. Jones said her daughter started feeling ill at the end of 2016, “but we didn’t get a diagnosis until January 2017.”

“We went through chemo, brain radiation, all kinds of treatments to help her cure her cancer,” Jones said.

However, in the spring of 2018, “she got very sick,” Jones said. Courtney died in April 2018 at age 11.

“She just couldn’t overcome all the effects of the treatment and how aggressive the disease process was with her leukemia,” she said.

One thing Jones said she was grateful for was the support of the Twinsburg community and surrounding communities during and after Courtney’s illness.

“When she was sick, they made sure all sorts of meals were delivered to our home,” she said. “She got many toys and gifts sent to her.”

Read: Making the world a brighter place for a sick Twinsburg child

Legacy

After Courtney died, the community pulled through again, Jones said.

“Of course, she didn’t survive her cancer, but her classmates, her teachers, the administration they knew about Courtney’s desire to start a foundation,” Jones said. “They raised money, they had a secret basket raffle, and they invited me to it, and I got to see all the community had done to get the foundation off the ground. We’ve been up and running ever since.”

The Courtney Jones Care and Cure Foundation started in fall 2018, with the foundation distributing $50 gift cards to grocery stores for children dealing with cancer and their families for Thanksgiving, Jones said. From there, the foundation delivered gifts and adopted families during the Christmas season. The foundation arranges for special gifts for children going through “an especially tough procedure such as a lumbar puncture.”

The foundation works with three hospitals, starting with University Hospitals Rainbow Babies, then Akron Children’s Hospital and then the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.

“We enjoy finding out what the children need,” Jones said. “I have a great insight in what the families face. The long hospital stays, the side effects, the procedures, what it does to their little bodies. When I think of these things, it hurts to think of the things she had went through. But the community has supported us a great deal, and we just want to give back, give these kids something to smile about.”

The “marquee item” from The Courtney Jones Care and Cure Foundation are rolling suitcases given to children, teens and young adults.

“We stuff the case with lots of goodies for them to enjoy and give them comfort while they are at the hospital,” Jones said. “A lap desk so they can write, draw or play a game. Eye masks to cover their eyes when they are trying to sleep in the lights at the hospital. A $25 Amazon gift card. Long chargers for electronics. Every place you go, an outlet is never where you are close. Shower caddies, crayons, books, markers, slippers, snacks. Little goodies so they know they come into the hospital, when they’ve been diagnosed with cancer, something no child or parent wants to hear, ... that someone supports them, someone who cares for them, someone who has walked a few steps ahead of them. Their community loves them. It allows them to focus on joy, health, and getting better.”

The Jones family -- Alisha, Corey and Cordell -- had a booth at the 2019 Twins Days Festival for the Courtney Jones Care and Cure Foundation.

Jones said that those on the Twinsburg Talk Facebook group raised $1,250, “which helped fund a great deal of the comfort cases.”

While she doesn’t have an exact number, Jones estimates the foundation has bought hundreds of individual gifts and cards. The foundation also has helped pay for camps and purchase bikes, she added.

“We know that there are close to 300 kids who are getting regular, active treatment in the hospitals that we service,” Jones said. “There are so many different kinds of admissions.”

The foundation was going to have its first gala event, Springtime in Paris, in April; however, the pandemic forced the foundation to cancel the event, Jones said, “and the summer had me pump the brakes on everything.”

“Paris was Courtney’s favorite place to think about,” Jones said. “We had a plan to go to Europe, Courtney had picked it out, but we never got to go.”

The Courtney Jones Care and Cure Foundation had received several raffle baskets for the spring event, Jones said. So she was able to improvise with an online event, with a raffle battle: Care and Cure versus Pediatric Cancer. Grand prize is $2,000 or a Peloton Bike. The drawing is Nov. 30. Proceeds will go to the Comfort Cases.

For details, visit http://www.courtneyjonescareandcure.org/home.aspx

Helping children find happiness is more challenging with the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones said.

“Kids can’t congregate in the play areas like they used to, so they are really isolated,” she said.

The foundation plans to start putting together birthday baskets for children, Jones said.

“So when kids have to be in the hospital on their birthday, which is an awful time to be in the hospital, it’s something to cheer them up,” said Jones.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com