Justin Wegner was diagnosed with Sarcoma Soft Cell cancer less than a year after graduating from Naperville Central. The NCHS community rallied around him with the hashtag #JWegStrong. But even in the darkest time of his life, Justin was still looking to help others.
“Thinking Of Others Before Himself”
“If you knew Justin or you think you knew him from the stories that you’ve read, you know that it just fits with him,” said his father Ed Wegner. “That his personality was always just about caring for others and thinking of others before himself.”
During his treatment at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, the Wegners estimate they spent about 100 nights at the Ronald McDonald House.
There, they found a drawer full of gift cards intended to give families a welcome reprieve from life in the hospital.
“It’s good to get out of the hospital and get a cup of coffee with a Starbucks gift card. Or get a sandwich, not hospital food all the time,” said Cathy Wegner, Justin’s mother.
Justin had found a perfect way to give back.
Gift Card Drive
“Justin actually contacted me when he was first diagnosed with cancer,” said Barry Baldwin, a Naperville Central teacher who organizes the drive. “So he asked if the JKB Foundation here, which is a leadership group of kids, could get together and run something and he goes, “How about a gift card drive?’ ‘Yeah we can get that done.’ And that’s how it came to be.”
Baldwin collects the cards and checks their value –but he’ll take a card with any amount on it.
“I had one donated today that had seven cents on it and the girl that gave it to me felt bad. What they do is they take that seven cents and they combine it with another card… Nothing goes to waste,” said Baldwin.
Making an Impact
Now in its fourth year, the drive has generated more than $25,000 in gift cards since it started. But this drive is the first since Justin’s death in July of 2019.
“He touched a lot of lives in his short life,” said Ed. “More so than we could have ever even imagined and this is one piece of his legacy that we want to keep.”
“When all is said and done, Justin had a dream and his dream was to give back to the Ronald McDonald house who gave so much to him,” said Baldwin. “So as long as I’m a teacher here and there’s a lot of coaches here and a lot of faculty members that remember Justin and love Justin, this gift card drive will go on forever at Naperville Central.”
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.
If you’d like to donate a gift card to the Justin Wegner gift card drive, gift cards can be mailed to Naperville Central High School to the attention of Barry Baldwin.
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