Jamie Bratton-McNeeley would have been 21 years old this year. He likely would have been on the verge of graduating from college and starting to pursue his passions. What is most certain is that he would have been planning how he would leave his mark on the world.
But instead, Jamie’s legacy lives on in a very different way.
Jamie’s life was cut short in a tragic auto accident just shy of his sixth birthday in 2002.
The son of Elene Bratton and Mychael McNeeley, Jamie was known as a very enlightened child who touched all who knew him. He had a genuine passion for life and his infectious smile served as a reminder for everyone to live a joyful life. As he liked to say “I love life, it’s so effervescent”.
That’s why his family was moved to give back to the community with funds that mourners had contributed after Jamie’s passing.
As his mother Elene described, “We wanted to build a legacy around who Jamie was because it was really important to us that his spirit and legacy live on. Through the Jamie’s Joy Memorial Fund at The San Diego Foundation, we were able to honor the life of Jamie by enriching the lives of all living beings through supporting activities and organizations that promote joy, love, connection and peace.”
Every year, Elene gives back to organizations serving populations that are the age Jamie would have been in the current day.
The last two years Urban Street Angels received a grant from the Jamie’s Joy Memorial Fund to help deliver life-impacting resources and support to homeless transitional age (18-25 years old) youth in San Diego. The two years prior to that, since Jamie would have been preparing for college, the fund supported Reality Changers to provide more youth with an opportunity to pursue higher education.
Each grant is meant to further Jamie’s message of joy, love, connection and peace.
“It is never easy to move on from such a tragic event,” explained Elene. “Everything changed in a moment – my beliefs, my faith, my friends. Now, I find that being of service is one of the ways I can move forward and live life again. I’m not just stuck in my own hurt and emotions.”
Today, Elene carries on Jamie’s legacy by giving back across San Diego.
In addition to growing the impact of Jamie’s Joy Memorial Fund, Elene maintains a local community park along the aptly-named street, Jamie’s Way, near their home in City Heights.
She also works with Interfaith Shelter Network to feed the homeless each year, and provides grief education and resources along with traffic safety education to the public through being the face that was forever impacted by something most people don’t pay much attention to, driving safety. By sharing her story, Elene helps others address their own struggles.
Despite the fact that Jamie is no longer with us, his life continues to make a positive impact throughout the community. Thanks to Elene, San Diego will remember Jamie not just as a young boy with a passion for life, but as someone who was and is forever committed to helping others.
Create your own legacy by opening a fund and joining hundreds of San Diego philanthropists like Elene who are making an impact in the region.