Family life

This dying boy's wish was to help other kids like him

The Children’s Wish Foundation has released a video for their new clothing line inspired by Jayden Strauss, the recipient of their 25,000th wish, and my family got to be a part of it.

Jay holding his shoes in the hospital

Photo: Courtesy of Children’s Wish Foundation

The Children’s Wish Foundation has released a video for their new clothing line inspired by Jayden Strauss, the recipient of their 25,000th wish, and my family got to be a part of it.

Jay was a 16-year old athlete from Edmonton when he developed Stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer of the muscle tissue. Jay was a huge basketball fan, and for his wish he wanted to create a unique pair of basketball shoes by fusing together the styles of his favourite designers. The foundation teamed him up with popular shoe designer Dilly, and over the course of several Skype calls, notes and design proofs, Jay’s dream sneakers became a reality.

When the shoes finally arrived, Jay was bedridden at Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, but the moment he put those shoes on, he got out of bed and walked for the first time in weeks. After that, the sneakers never left his feet—even when he was sleeping.

Jay going for a walk in his shoes after being on bedrest

Photo: Courtesy of Children’s Wish Foundation

Jay died on November 14, 2017 —but his dream lives on with the creation of King Jay Apparel. The foundation wanted to do more, and in discussions with Jay and his parents they agreed this clothing line would be a “grand goodbye” – he told the Children’s Wish Foundation he wanted to use his wish for good– to help other kids get their wishes.

The clothing line—available for purchase here—features hoodies, tees and crewneck sweatshirts, each emblazoned with the King Jay flaming crown logo and one of four graphic shoelace designs. Jayden’s favorite basketball player is LeBron James, who has his own King James line, so Children’s Wish named the clothing line King Jay as an homage.  Proceeds will help the foundation grant the next 25,000 wishes.

My kids go to school with the Children’s Wish Foundation’s national director’s kids, and when she asked us to appear in a video about Jay’s story and his clothing line, we had to be a part of it. It didn’t take much convincing to get my kids and I onto a basketball court in subzero temperatures: The video for the clothing line features an actor portraying Jay shooting some hoops as a growing crowd gathers to support him—all dressed in King Jay clothing. We linked arms, the kids in the front, grown ups in the back and cheered loudly for him. It was a night I’ll never forget, and one we still talk about. Every night my eight-year old daughter Lily says a prayer for the kids who are sick, “like Jay” and sends her love to the families who are in hospitals right now. It was particularly special night because we felt like some of the first to join Jay’s “kingdom”.

Image of the special shoe created for Jayden Strauss's wish

Photo: Courtesy of Children’s Wish Foundation

And that kingdom is growing. One of Jay’s favorite expressions was “You have to have fire in your feet” and when the Miami Heat heard this, they were on board immediately and have appeared in advertisements wearing King Jay t-shirts; the Toronto Raptors, Arlene Dickinson and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are part of Jay’s Kingdom now, too – they’ve promised to wear the clothes and share the message on social media. You can too.

Watch the full video here:

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