Charlotte teen’s parents carry on her legacy with Jane’s Fund

Charlotte teen’s parents carry on her legacy with Jane’s Fund

(From left to right in the first row) Max, Piper, Jane and Sam Harrell. Their parents Dr. Jane and Mike Harrell in the second row. Photo: Courtesy of the Harrell family

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The last thing parents with terminally ill children should have to worry about is money, Jane Harrell, M.D., and Mike Harrell tell Axios.

What’s happening: The Harrells formally launched Jane’s Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in memory of their daughter in January. But they’ve been building relationships and informally helping others for the last 18 months.

  • At age 17, Jane died in 2019, five months after being diagnosed with a brain tumor called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), which around 300 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with annually, per the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
  • “Jane had this innate ability to recognize when people were in pain or struggling and [to] just go do something about it,” her mother, whom she was named for, tells Axios.

Details: Jane’s Fund focuses on five areas: providing financial support to families with terminally ill children, education, camp, smiles (oral surgery and other dentistry needs) and sports. Jane was passionate about each of those areas, her parents say.

Pediatric cancerJane’s Fund has helped more than half a dozen families with expenses like mortgages and funerals. It’s done anonymously, because they don’t want families worrying about having to thank someone. They want them to spend as much time as they can with their kids while they can instead of worrying about bills.

EducationJane organized a school supply drive as a kindergartner. Today the nonprofit is working with West Charlotte High to provide students the supplies they need for college, from computers to dorm supplies like laundry baskets and sheets.

  • Jane’s Fund also provides things like teacher appreciation lunches, student uniforms and ice cream parties to celebrate improved test scores.

CampThe Harrells are an active family and Jane loved the outdoors. Jane’s Fund sends kids who have never been on a field trip to Camp Thunderbird on Lake Wylie in South Carolina. You can also sponsor kids and teachers for camps and teamwork development at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

SmilesJane met a man named Johnny while she was at the hospital. Johnny was responsible for wheeling her from her hospital room to treatment. He was self-conscious about his teeth, and Jane told her family they needed to help him get braces. He had them on before she died.

SportsJane’s Fund provided new helmets for West Charlotte High football players. A friend of Jane’s held a tennis tournament fundraiser at Colby College, which will serve as seed money for the Jane’s Fund after-school lacrosse program. Jane played lacrosse.

The big picture: The fund is about more than easing the financial burden of families of terminally ill pediatric cancer patients, though that is certainly part of the mission. It’s about building relationships and encouraging others to “shine like Jane,” the Harrells tell me.

  • You can donate to Jane’s Fund here. If you cannot donate financially, you can give your time.
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