JaKelle's Christmas Box Keeps Loving Girl's Giving Spirit Alive

In Loving Memory
JaKelle Michelle Westergard
Oct. 7, 1994 - June 5, 2012

JaKelle Michelle Westergard was born October 7, 1994, in Mesa, Arizona. As the first (and only) girl in a family of all boys, she was the special angel that her family had been praying would come to them. She was her Mom’s little girl, her Dad’s little angel, and for her three brothers – the most beautiful thing they had ever seen. Her special spirit and personality was addicting.

From the very beginning of her life here on earth, JaKelle always made people feel happy and made sure they knew they were loved. She knew exactly how to brighten a person’s day and was more than willing to make a new friend and say "Hi" to a stranger. She made friends wherever she went. She literally attended hundreds of ball games to watch her older brothers play ball and you could always find JaKelle scouting out another new friend somewhere in the crowd. She would move down a row, wait a minute, then move down another row, wait again, and before you knew it she was sitting and talking to her newest friend. She understood what it was like to feel loved and wanted, and she loved to help others feel the same way. She loved to get the "girls" together to have some fun. They could often be found choreographing dances and making videos to the newest and latest song. Music was something that she loved.

Growing up, JaKelle was a very active girl. At the young age of 3, she started dance at Campbell’s Dance Studio. It was the start of something that she would continue to love and excel at for the rest of her life. JaKelle absolutely loved to perform in front of people. She had the opportunity to not only perform throughout Arizona, but to travel parts of the world and perform in front of thousands. She won many awards throughout the years and excelled greatly as a dancer as she matured.

As a freshman, JaKelle decided to give cheerleading a try. She was selected to  the ninth grade squad at Brimhall Junior High and as a sophomore she made the Varsity Cheer Squad at Mesa High and began to develop relationships with many girls that she would become very close to. After her sophomore year, JaKelle decided to try out for the Mesa High Dance team, Euporia. She would have an opportunity not only dance but also to choreograph and incorporate two of her favorite things into her performances: music and fashion.

One of her favorite TV shows, as you could probably guess, was "So You Think You Can Dance." One year her Mom and Dad surprised her with tickets to the Taylor Swift concert. She was so excited. She had spent months memorizing her songs and just loved everything about her. In a lot of ways, music inspired JaKelle. It was through music and dance that JaKelle was able to express herself. There were so many times when you could hear JaKelle up in her room coming up with dances to songs on her iPod. Whenever she was in the car she loved to sing and play the music loud!    
JaKelle loved to swim. She was the fish of the family, and you could literally watch the hours go by as she swam out in the pool. She loved the water.

JaKelle also loved steak, and she could keep up with the boys whenever we had steak for dinner.

JaKelle’s favorite place to go was the family cabin in Wyoming. She loved the mountains, the peacefulness and the serenity. She always made sure she had a few new books to read out on the porch in the mountain air. She loved rafting down the Snake River, going down the Alpine slides and most of all shopping with her mom in Jackson Hole. First stop was always the candy store where she could stock up on another favorite thing – chocolate!

One of the most important things to JaKelle throughout her life was her relationship with her Heavenly Father. JaKelle was a girl with tremendous faith and charity. She loved attending church and sharing with others what she learned. Her understanding of who she was allowed her to live her life in a way that was acceptable before God. She represented herself in the most appropriate manner. As a daughter of God, she often expressed how happy she was. This happiness was something that she shared with others, often encouraging them to take it upon themselves to do the same as she had — develop faith in God and live a life full of gratitude.

In describing herself, JaKelle once wrote:

My name is JaKelle Michelle Westergard.
I love my family more than anything.
It doesn’t bother me to be alone, it really relaxes me.
I love to sit in my room and listen to music and just relax.
Dance is my number one passion. I have been dancing since I was 3 and will never get sick of doing it.
My friends are my life and I can talk to them about basically everything!
I’m a really good listener and will always be there for my friends if they need help with anything.
I eat a lot! I know it doesn’t look like it but one time I ate about 50 chicken wings in one sitting!
My parents call me a fish because ever since I was little I have lived in the water all summer long.
I come off shy and quiet to a lot of people but trust me, when you get to know me I talk all the time.
I’m the youngest in my family and the only girl.
I love chocolate ... Like A LOT!
My favorite colors are yellow and teal.
My dream car is a lime green or purple buggy.
My most favorite thing to do is to go up to my cabin in Wyoming every summer for 2 weeks and just spend time with my family.

JaKelle passed away on June 5, 2012, after spending three months in Phoenix Children's Hospital undergoing numerous surgeries related to lung failure from an unknown cause. Family, friends, schools, congregations, and groups everywhere rallied around during those months as JaKelle's influence continued to change lives and unify these many groups. Yellow and teal shirts and signs were everywhere around the Valley, and in neighboring states — all with the plea to “Be Strong and Carry On.”

JaKelle’s Christmas Box

JaKelle loved Christmas. The lights, sounds and smells of Christmas always made her happy. She loved to go on car rides to look at Christmas lights around the neighborhoods. She also loved to give and receive gifts – and we as parents and brothers loved to give her gifts, and lots of them! On Christmas morning, the tradition in our family is to have someone play “Santa” and pass out the gifts under the tree to everyone. Everyone would receive a gift from under the tree and then in order we would open the gifts. This process would be repeated until all of the gifts were opened. An interesting thing always happened though: When her three older brother were done opening all of their presents, JaKelle would still often have dozens of presents to open —and these didn’t include all of the ones Mom didn’t put under the Christmas tree but gave her later!

Over the last number of weeks as we have thought about this first Christmas without JaKelle, we quickly realized that we wanted to continue to “shower” JaKelle with lots of gifts. We came up with the idea of JaKelle’s Christmas Box. We decided that we will continue to buy lots and lots of gifts for JaKelle and put them in this special Christmas Box. We hope to fill many big boxes by inviting all of our extended family members, friends and everyone in the community to join us. We will then contribute these gifts to an organization that serves the needs of children at Christmas in her name. We determined that Helen’s Hope Chest would be the perfect organization.

—Lynn and Jana Westergard