Friends of JJ is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that brings hope and joy to children and families affected by pediatric diseases. Brenna & Chris Messana, with the help of their family started this foundation in 2014 in memory of their brother JJ. JJ was 27 years old when he passed away after battling pediatric cancer for eight years. JJ’s story is incredible.


JJ was a CBA graduate, after graduation he started at Monmouth University. Within months he was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma. He did not let cancer stop him, while undergoing countless rounds of surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy he managed to graduate Monmouth University and marry his college sweetheart.

Even though Jerry was 20 years old when he was diagnosed, he was placed on the pediatric floor. For eight years, his family watched newborns, infants, children and their families suffer tremendously. Watching these children and their families was heart-wrenching and unforgettable.

JJ being an older “kid” in the hospital would try to make every younger child smile. JJ was heartbroken over these children having to spend their childhood in a hospital. When JJ passed, The Messana Family decided to start Friends of JJ to continue JJs efforts in making these children SMILE!


Toys of Joy

One of our most meaningful events. Every holiday season we team up with schools, businesses and organizations to collect new toys for children and their families spending their Holiday Season at a hospital. We deliver over 10,000 toys and gift cards to hospitals across NJ, NY & PA. The amount of smiles we are able to bring during the holiday season is incredible.During the weeks leading up to Christmas we hand deliver to JOY to over 25 hospitals. Annually we host a POP UP SHOP at a local hospital where the patients and their families can “shop” for all their holiday gifts without leaving the hospital.

Childhood Cancer Awareness

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a month to honor and remember the children and families affected by this disease. Childhood Cancer Awareness is extremely important to Friends of JJ not only in the month of September, but all year-round. The Childhood Cancer ribbon is Gold representing how precious children are. Friends of JJ stays Gold all year long by raising funds to support the families affected by Childhood Cancer.

Stirring Up Smiles for Halloween

Friends of JJ brings the Halloween Fun directly to the Hospital! We send costumes and gifts to hospitals across NJ, NY & PA. We also have an annual Halloween Party at St. Peters in New Brunswick. The children get to hang out and take pictures with Princesses and Superheroes. Every patient and their siblings can pick out their own Halloween costume and we also give out goodie bags, crafts, activities and more!

Seasonal Smiles

Pediatric disease does not stop and either do we! All year-round we bring smiles to hopsitals. We send goodie bags and toys for Summer Smiles, Fall Fun, Holiday Cheer, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Spring Smiles.

Smile Box

Every box brings a Smile. Through friends, family and social media we encounter families from all over the country that have a child affected by a pediatric illness. Since we cannot visit them at a local hospital we send them personal a Smile Box. Our Smile Box, filled with toys and games, is mailed directly to the child’s home. This is one way Friends of JJ can bring smiles to children near and far.

If you know a child in need of a Smile Box, please send us their story and contact information.

St. Jerome Award

The Messana Family has been actively involved with St. Gabriel’s Church in Marlboro, NJ since 1994. JJ was an avid volunteer at St. Gabriel’s, he was on the basketball team, volleyball team and a member of the Christian Youth Organization. St. Gabriel’s created the St. Jerome Award to honor JJs memory. This scholarship is awarded to a member of the Christian Youth Organization that has put their faith in Jesus Christ into action through service and love for others as JJ always did.

Ladies Night Out- Shop, Sip, Support

Every Spring Friends of JJ hosts a ladies night out to Shop, Sip and Support. The night is a fabulous night filled local boutiques, vendors, complimentary wine bar, a gourmet buffet and an exclusive gift raffle. The gift raffle includes items from local stores, spas and restaurants and even designer handbags. Every year we have over 100 attendees from all over NJ.
The proceeds from this yearly event directly support our mission of bringing smiles to children and families affected by pediatric diseases.

We hope to see you at this years Ladies Night Out!

Princess & Superhero Visits

One of our most special activities is surprising the children with special visitors during their stay at a hospital. A surprise visit from a Princesses or Superhero always brings tremendous joy to children. The character’s love to hang out, take pictures and give a toy or two to the children. Our characters always bring happiness to the children and their families too!

Think we could help?

Reach out to us and let us know how!