Friends of the J
Throughout The J you can see the happy faces of people positively impacted by the generous support of our community! You can also see the continued need for a Community Center that is safe and welcoming for all.
Your support provides scholarships and discounts to individuals who need it most!
You are going to read two amazing stories from Katie and Melissa. The J was here for them when they needed help, and your continued support ensures individuals from different financial backgrounds can transform their lives.
Katie Spector is one of the newest additions to The J family, having joined us as one of our Arts and Culture Managers. Her first introduction to The J was through the fitness center, where she underwent an amazing transformation, losing 100 pounds. After graduating college in 2015, she started working at The UA Hillel Foundation. She discovered our Jewish professionals’ discount and once she tried The J, she was hooked:
“I saw a friend at the gym yesterday—I don’t even know her name and she doesn’t know mine. I hadn’t seen her in two months and she said ‘Oh my; you’re looking fantastic!’ I almost started crying because someone who I don’t really know has noticed I’ve changed, too.”
Katie credits the positive environment at the gym with giving her the interest in applying to work at The J. She is really excited to lead the Tucson International Film Festival as part of her new responsibilities—and as her new self.
A hundred pounds ago I couldn’t have imagined standing up there and introducing a film. Now I’m excited to do that and show my passion without worrying that everyone is just going to think about my weight.
“I used to walk with my eyes and head down. I was so concerned about being unnoticed, camouflaged into society. Now, I can walk down the hall with my head held high and I’m wearing clothes that I never thought I’d wear before. I’m comfortable talking to new people and showing I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve done.”
Meet Melissa and Her Family
Melissa Ward and her family joined The J about seven years ago when they found out about the Firefighter’s discount. Her husband, Mike, is a firefighter for the City of Tucson. They have two children, Colin (14) and Avery (12). Avery has special needs, and while they didn’t join The J for that reason, they are glad they joined, because they ended up discovering the world of J inclusion programs. In fact, Avery’s first Advocate is still a part of their family.
Melissa speaks glowingly of Camp J and how both of her kids were able to enjoy the activities:
We’ve never seen any different treatment, like anyone being told they don’t get to participate. It’s just a fantastic program….I think our whole family has grown a lot by getting to know several families and appreciating the diversity that exists.
About a year ago, Avery’s family went to their first Sparks inclusion event and had a lot of fun, which led to Avery joining the Sparks Cheer team, enriching her life exponentially:
It’s great because it is open to all ages, all genders, all abilities. Avery just attended a two-day cheer camp and it was just fantastic. I dropped her off and she had the best time and it’s not something I could picture even a year ago. I think that just putting on the shirt and the bow and showing up and being a part of a team means a lot to Avery. It’s a sense of belonging. She loves it.
“We’re forever grateful that we have not only a place that provides the programming, but totally embraces it. This is the only place we’ve really found that provides that, where we don’t have to make a choice between special needs and general education.”
Melissa’s family and Katie might not have found the supportive community that they needed if The J hadn’t been here and if the financial aid hadn’t been available.
Can they count on you to help support our wonderful J community?
Thank you for making The Tucson J such a special place!