A 2011 graduate of Miamisburg High School, Jenna Parlette was a standout track and cross country star at Wilmington College who inspired others and had a heart of gold. Despite a diagnosis of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy and an irregular heartbeat, Jenna clinched several records during her athletic career, never letting her condition keep her from reaching her goals while encouraging her family, friends and teammates to do the same.
In 2013, Jenna collapsed seconds before crossing the finish line at a track meet in Franklin, Indiana, and passed away three days later from an undetected and rare genetic liver disorder. To carry on her daughter’s legacy of perseverance and kindness, Lisa Parlette established two funds — The Jenna Parlette Memorial Foundation #JENNASTRONG Fund and The Jenna Parlette Memorial Scholarship #JENNASTRONG Fund through The Dayton Foundation. The scholarship fund awards scholarships to students at Miamisburg High School that exemplify the qualities that Jenna stood for — kindness, competitiveness, hard work and chasing one’s dreams, no matter the obstacles. Jenna’s mother, and many of the people Jenna touched during her lifetime, call this being #JENNASTRONG.
Q: How did Jenna’s passing influence your desire to give to charity?
A: Our family was so appreciative of all the love and support we received from the community after Jenna passed. Reflecting on Jenna’s life, we realized that she had been fortunate to receive love and support from teachers, coaches, mentors, fellow students and scholarship funds. Jenna once stated in a news interview that so many people had inspired her, and she hoped she could inspire someone someday. Giving back helps us do just that, in honor of Jenna.
Q: Tell us about The Jenna Parlette Memorial Scholarship #JENNASTRONG Fund.
A: The fund is designed to give financial aid to upcoming Miamisburg High School graduates (both athletes and non-athletes) who embody the spirit of Jenna Parlette. Currently, there are three scholarships awarded per year — one to a female athlete, one to a male athlete and one to a student in the spirit of kindness. Each $500 scholarship is awarded to students who complete an essay and is in good academic standing. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee, who look for students who are passionate, possess strong school spirit and participate in extracurricular activities and service projects.
Q: How have you raised funds for Jenna’s fund?
A: Each year we hold the Run With Your Legs, Win With Your Heart 5k in Miamisburg. Last year, we also held a golf outing to raise money for the funds. Plans are in the works to do both again in 2017. Also, various sports teams from the local area generously have collected and donated funds. This past year, the U12 Gold Academy Girls Southwest Soccer Club from Germantown raised $1,000 for the fund. Because of the kindness of these organizations and others we are able to give back.
Q: How does The Dayton Foundation help you help others?
A: The Dayton Foundations has made it a seamless process to streamline donations and set up the funds in honor of Jenna, and the staff continues to offer their expertise whenever I need it. The Foundation also sends thank you letters to our donors, which has been a tremendous help. It is a privilege to work with the Foundation and the staff.
Q: What advice can you share about giving to the community?
A: Giving time and/or money really does help take one’s mind off their personal situation and to see the big picture. When Jenna collapsed during a Lyons Club race in Miamisburg in 2008, a doctor and nurse running alongside of her performed CPR and perhaps gave us more time with Jenna. Later, Jenna gave back by volunteering for the American Heart Association and encouraging teens to learn CPR. Fast forward to 2016, The Jenna Parlette Memorial Scholarship #JENNASTRONG Fund awarded three scholarships to Miamisburg students. One of the scholarships serendipitously went to the daughter of one of the good samaritans who performed CPR on Jenna – bringing this all full circle.
Jenna once sent out a tweet that said, “Why do some people only give half a smile? Go all in if you mean it!” I believe this can apply to giving back as well. Whether it is with time or money, giving back is beneficial and you should give it your all!
Q: How would you complete this sentence, “My giving makes me feel____”?
A: Better. It honestly makes me feel better about things in general, and who wouldn’t want to feel better in the New Year?
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The Dayton Foundation has been helping people help others since 1921 by managing charitable funds, awarding grants to nonprofits and launching community initiatives. Contact the Foundation at (937) 222-0410 or visit www.daytonfoundation.org.