Our Origami Heart

The Evolution of our Origami Heart…

At a few of our past JCWWP events, the crowds made my friend Joel’s (http://www.joeldstern.com/) simple origami hearts.

Making Origami Hearts

Inside, they wrote messages of hope and love that we give to hospital patients. This idea came to fruition a few years ago after Kristen (who was Justin’s

camp counselor when he was 9 years old) wrote us a short story to describe what she witnessed when the youngest camper (Justin) helped an outcast camper.

Justin with Kristen at Camp

There was a 12-year-old girl who had attended the camp for 2 years. She was so bright and she was already in college. However, she lacked social skills. She never spoke to the other kids. She just read books and played alone with her miniature origami figures. Justin told Kristen he was going to befriend her. We had never heard about this profound encounter. It is worth repeating to set the stage…

“The Day the World Changed”

The cafeteria loved lunchtime the most. Bathed in sunlight from the tip of her chimneys to the bottom of her bricks, she lounged comfortably in the warmth of the afternoon. She smiled as her favorite moments were in this sea of kids who danced back and forth through their hurried lunch lines, the joys, and the sorrows that breathed their life into childhood. Her walls buzzed hot with the sounds of the children moving, eating, yelling, whispering, feeling, growing, becoming.

But Kate sat still. Alone at the cafeteria’s last lunch table, her back to the sun, to create a harsh silhouette designed to discourage the glares of her classmates and disguise the quiet sadness that came from a little girl’s chosen life of solitude. She opened her book as usual and sat her tiny origami figures on it like always. They stood solemnly in a perfect chess formation to protect their queen. But the cafeteria sensed somehow that today those pieces of paper were different.

A small dark black boy, smiling as big as her opened book was wide, sat down directly across from her and soaked up every bit of the bright sun that cloaked Kate from behind. Kate glared at him like her classmates greeted her. Justin kept smiling. Kate began to take each of her paper playmates from her book and tuck them back inside the safety of her folder in a dramatic effort to escape the torture. She paused to contemplate closing her book altogether.

Then it happened. The cafeteria held her breath as Justin reached toward Kate. Kate recoiled in both disgust and fear of his outstretched hand and his egregious human error. Justin, however, did not reach for Kate, but instead for the paper napkin that had accompanied him to her table. Framed within the cafeterias summer windows, he proudly folded and refolded the little lunch room square. Stunned, the cafeteria watched from above as the shape of a perfect heart emerged from his busy work. His little heart then softly glided across the table beneath his hand. Kate’s own heart raced as the napkin’s journey came to an end in front of her now lonely pages of the book.

Justin still smiled. The cafeteria still smiled. Kate smiled for the first time .Then Justin just stood up and walked away, his back softly absorbing both the window’s heated glare of setting sun and Kate’s warm glow of growing spirit. The cafeteria felt a vibrant new rhythm beating within her walls. Kate felt an enlivening beat begin within her origami heart.

That was the day that the world changed.

Artwork by Gary Lett 2014






*True Story recreated and written by Kristen Skouras Fredrick copyright February 10, 2014

When Justin died, we vowed that we would do whatever we could to spare other families from facing an unimaginable loss of losing a child the way we did. When my “newfound” sister-friend Laurel Travis saw, “ Justin’s Story” on CBS2 News:

She was deeply touched by his life!!

She vowed to herself that she would do everything in her power to save others. Subsequently, she founded Student Athletic Fitness Evaluation (SAFE)




Jonathan and Laurel
Jonathan and Laurel

Last year, I just happened to meet her at a Pediatric Cardiology event. She shared her mission with me. We became fast friends. When she inform us about the new Cardea Screen https://www.cardeascreen.com/ Darrell and I subsequently purchased one.

On the set with Deborah (Smile LaDy)

Cardea Screen is a new portable, hand-held ECG device developed for screening young athletes’ hearts. Its custom algorithms can help physicians quickly and accurately identify abnormal cardiac conditions that may lead to Sudden Cardiac Arrest, or other quality of life limiting conditions, through high-quality ECGs and easy-to-use tools for over-reading and reporting.


Last Sunday, Saint Mark’s Church in Altadena, a place where Justin attended kindergarten, was in the choir and served as an acolyte, SAFE did testing in honor of Justin. They extended the gift of life to about 3 dozen anxious students and their unassuming families who showed up to be tested. Just remember… Justin was a strong and vibrant 6’3 young man who was happy, dancing, singing and swimming the day he died. He had NO warning signs.


Stephen was the first one tested


It’s a Family Affair with the Amezcua’s





Their Mom Allison Signed them up first!






We were surprised when 13% of the test results revealed red flags. This meant that it was imperative for the parents to stop their children them from doing any exercise and get to a cardiologist ASAP for further testing.

One mother who got this discerning news, about her child, came out of the room and fell into my arms crying hysterically. As I held her, I said: “There is nothing wrong with crying or being upset. However, knowledge is power. Think about it, you have been given a gift of information to do something and to check things out further. Darrell and I did not have an opportunity to save Justin. We took him to the Doctors for every little thing!” She wiped away her tears and hugged me tighter.

Darrell and I had few words that afternoon, because as you can imagine, our thoughts went to: “Why did this happen to Justin? Why did we not know that Justin had this condition? This test takes a mere 16 seconds to discover problems!!! Unfortunately, we will never know the answers to any of the many questions that frequent our brain, day in and day out.

So as we cycle through the days, months, holidays and milestones we will hold each memory of joy close to our hearts. Justin was our son with the biggest heart as described in the Origami Heart Story. He will forever be the light guiding us along the way. He will continue to be the oxygen we breathe to keep moving every day…

Thank you, Saint Mark’s for always wrapping your arms around us, Laurel and Johnathon, for making a difference in our lives as you save many others in honor of Justin. Thank you, Deborah, aka the Smile lady for spreading the word. It is our gift to make it possible for many lives to beat. Our newest mantra is to “Test Some. Save One” and to remember that every little origami heart that you extend with a smile, a helping hand or a test will make a difference and bring joy and life to someone who may need it the most.!!!