Soldier recognized for volunteer work with children

| March 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

Honolulu-Hawaii NAACP Chapter President Alphonso Braggs presents Sgt. 1st Class JaNesse Simpson with the Inspirational Military Leadership Award. (Dr. Evelyn R. Vento)

Make-A-Wish Hawaii
News Release

For Sgt. 1st Class JaNesse Simpson, better known as Ja’, serving the community is a way of life.

Ja’, a behavioral health Soldier at the U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks, oversees 10 behavioral health departments. He has served in the Army for 19 years, but his dedication to service extends beyond the military.

Since becoming a volunteer and wish granter with Make-A-Wish Hawaii, he has granted three wishes and participated in a number of fundraisers to benefit local children.

He was originally introduced to the Make-A-Wish mission through a fellow Soldier-turned-wish granter. After leaving work, he heads to the hospital to visit his wish kids, take them to the park or watch a movie with them.

“All the kids that I’ve worked with are tough as nails, super strong,” he said. “Watching the families get the news that their kids are doing better or that their wish is coming true is a big sigh of relief and so rewarding.”

Ja’ recently helped grant 9-year-old Ella’s wish to go to Disney World. He was on the baseball field with Ella and her family for the big reveal with the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Baseball team on March 4.

“Ella just had a brain operation, and she’s already up and walking,” said Ja’. “And now she’s going to Disney World.”

Ja’ said working with the Make-A-Wish Hawaii team makes his volunteerism a “dream job.”

“There’s such a level of camaraderie,” he said. “I’ll bend over backwards for every one of those staff members.”

The appreciation is mutual.

Sgt. 1st Class JaNesse Simpson volunteers at Make-A-Wish Hawaii’s inaugural Trailblaze Challenge, March 10. (Courtesy of Debbie Leanne Photography)

“Ja’ always puts his whole heart into volunteering for us, whether he is helping out at events or serving our keiki as a wish granter,” said Make-A-Wish Hawaii Volunteer Outreach Manager Will Phelps. “I am so grateful for his can-do attitude.”

In addition to his work for Make-A-Wish, Ja’ also volunteers for the military’s Drunk Driving Prevention Program (DDPP), which aims to prevent service members and their families from driving under the influence by giving them rides home.

“The concept is to prevent people from hurting themselves, hurting someone else or hurting their careers,” explained Ja’.

Since beginning his work with the Hawaii chapter of the program last March, Ja’ has already accrued more than 550 volunteer.

In September 2017, the Honolulu-Hawaii branch of the NAACP presented him with the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Inspirational Military Leadership Award for his work with Make-A-Wish Hawaii and the DDPP. He was among a handful of service members throughout the Pacific region who were recognized for their leadership.

The caption for this one can be something like Sgt. 1st Class JaNesse Simpson with wish kid Ella as her wish is revealed on March 4 at Les Murakami Stadium. (Photo courtesy of University of Hawaii Athletics Department)

He had been nominated for the award by a colleague, and receiving it proved to be a moving experience.

“It was humbling for me,” he said. “I certainly don’t do anything to receive any accolades, but I was so happy that people recognized that there are others out there trying to do good.”

For Ja’, who has been volunteering since high school, the importance of community service is immeasurable.

“It’s important to volunteer because truly giving back and not wanting something in return is such a reward within itself.”

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