Glastonbury High School junior gives back in many ways

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., May. 2, 2013
GHS junior Jeffery Joyce is busy helping others, but also finding new ways to help others. Courtesy photos. - Contributed Photo

Jeffrey Joyce, a junior at Glastonbury High School, has dedicated his life to serving others ever since his brother Kenneth was tragically killed in a skiing accident in February of 2008. In many different ways Joyce has touched the lives of people in the community and beyond and he continues to look for ways to be of help.

Joyce and his family founded the Kenneth Joyce Foundation, also known as KJ Life (Leadership, Inspiration, Friend to Everyone) which gives scholarships to GHS students, as well as some from other area high schools. The foundation holds a flag football fundraiser every June. This June will be the fifth annual event, and last year, approximately 550 people turned out, along with 200 volunteers.

Along with the Glastonbury Family YMCA, Joyce and KJ Life helped found the Youth Leadership Club, which is a service club for teens that meets monthly, and raises funds for the YMCA Strong Kids campaign. Among the group's activities is a trip to Gillette Stadium each year, but not to enjoy a game. The club works at the concession stands in exchange for a portion of the proceeds, which goes to inner city AAU basketball programs. They also organized a youth basketball tournament, and are working on a soccer tournament.

Joyce and the leadership club also launched a blood drive, in memory of his brother, which takes place in February and encourages high school students to become life-long donors. This past winter, the drive brought in 89 pint donations – more than twice that of any other drive at the location.

“They've done better than the high school blood drive,” said Betsey Pitt – YMCA Program Director.

A new venture Joyce is working on at the YMCA is creating another organization called Generosity Is Visible Everywhere (GIVE) which redistributes donated furniture and home goods to people in need of them.

He also works with the Peer Education program at GHS, is an active member of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, is applying for the National Honor Society and plays varsity football.

It would be difficult to count the number of people Joyce has already helped. Pitt said he has made her job easier and has helped the YMCA staff with nearly anything they've asked him to.

“If I say 'Hey, can you come help me out with basketball because I have 20 kids and I can't move the hoops,' he does,” Pitt said. “Unless he's away with his family, he does not say no. If the Y is having bingo night, he comes dressed up and helps.”

Joyce's efforts earned him the YMCA's Volunteer of the Year award in 2012.

“He's a nice, warm person – very selfless,” Pitt said. “He also got a scholarship through the Greater Hartford YMCA. When I'm thinking of volunteers, this is someone who is doing it, and it's not because he's required to. He's there all the time.”

Joyce said the loss of his brother made him realize how blessed he is, and that instilled a desire in him to give back.

“My family has never struggled to put food on the table,” he said. “I have two other brothers and an amazing family that is supportive and strong. They've always helped me with anything I needed help with. That made me feel [for those] without all these resources, it's my moral obligation to help others.”

Joyce said that when he was helping to distribute toys at a holiday drive in East Hartford, he was thrilled to see how happy it made the recipients. “To see people's appreciation, for someone who can't even comprehend the trouble that they have, it really makes you feel good,” he said. “It's more than pride. It's like an overwhelming gratitude and appreciation when I get my friends to come out and volunteer.”

At the blood drive, Joyce said he gets a similar feeling just by seeing the friends he recruited helping but also enjoying the day. “To see their faces when all the students are helping out but also having a good time, and to know that's because of me, is just really an indescribable feeling,” he said, “and to know that my brother's legacy and memory is carrying on.”

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