Stevens Point groups help raise $7,000 for family of deceased teenager

STEVENS POINT – In an “overwhelming” outpouring of community support, Stevens Point fundraising groups have raised more than $7,000 for the family of Jersey Howe, a 15-year-old girl who died on a trip to the Boys & Girls Club on June 23.

The money will go to Kim Kent, Howe’s grandmother and primary guardian. A combined Gofundme effort started by Howe’s best friend’s mother and Facebook groups The Power of Five and Making A Big Impact With Only $5 A Month raised more than $7,000.

Howe died unexpectedly last week while on a trip to Washington, DC, with the Boys & Girls Club. On June 23, Howe said she had difficulty breathing and then vomited. Boys & Girls Club staff called an ambulance and took her to the hospital. Hospital staff tried to save her, but it was too late when Howe arrived, Kent said.

Howe’s cause of death has yet to be confirmed, but doctors Kent spoke to said they found food in his lungs. Doctors also think she may have had a seizure, but they won’t know for sure until her autopsy comes back.

Community members heard about what happened through word of mouth, Facebook posts and local news. Fundraising began on June 24 and continued this week.

“It’s just overwhelming and nothing like I’ve ever seen before,” Kent said. “The outpouring of community support here at Stevens Point is just amazing, very amazing.”

Kent said she plans to use the money to pay for a bedroom set she bought from Howe and to help pay other bills. If there is any money left over, Kent plans to donate it to the Boys & Girls Club or the Animal Humane Society in Howe’s name.

Nicole Stroik, the creator of The Power of Five, said several people reached out to her and asked if she could start a fundraiser for Howe’s family. The community had heard of Howe’s sudden death and wanted to help but didn’t know how, Stroik said. This is exactly why Stroik created the Donation Group in 2020.

“I started it because I felt the community needed a place to come together, especially in times like these,” Stroik said. “People always want to help, but they don’t know exactly what to do or where to go with it. So it gives people an outlet, a way to help.”

Jasmine Barclift said she started Gofundme to care for Kent and his family. Barclift’s daughter, Isabel Cardenas and Howe were best friends.

Isabel Cardenas (left) and Jersey Howe (right) pose in animal onesies.  Cardenas was Howe's best friend.

“I knew they would need help, anyone with a traumatic situation like this is going to,” Barclift said. “They’re going to be so overwhelmed that even doing normal things is going to be difficult, so I really wanted to help.”

All three fundraisers are still collecting donations. You can donate through the Gofundme or follow the Facebook groups instructions to donate. Stroik said she will continue fundraising over the holiday weekend and let people know when she is stopping.

“There are so many people there that she touched”

Howe moved permanently to Stevens Point in July 2021 after spending his life moving with his parents. Howe and Kent’s mother decided it would be best if she moved in with her grandmother until she finished high school.

Howe just graduated ninth grade at PJ Jacobs Junior High School, a school she loved. Kent said she thought Howe didn’t like school until she started dating PJ Jacobs.

“I congratulate (the teachers) every chance I get because they’ve done so much for her,” Kent said. “They got it.”

Howe made many friends at school and joined the Boys & Girls Club, where she went most afternoons. Kent said Howe also spends a lot of time with his friends doing TikToks, watching movies and talking.

Kent and Barclift described Howe as an artistic person who loved animals. She painted frequently and had a dog, as well as two rabbits.

Howe’s funeral will be held July 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club of Portage County, 941 Michigan Ave. Kent said it would be casual with no formal service. She wants to provide a space for all members of the community to celebrate Howe’s life.

“I find out she was so much more than she was in our house,” Kent said. “There are so many people she has touched in such a short time.”

You can contact Emalyn Muzzy at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @EmalynMuzzy.

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