Jared's Fund started unofficially on April 15, 2016 — although we didn't know that's what it would be when we began receiving donations after the death of our son, brother, friend, cousin, and neighbor. These came from our community in Montclair and far beyond.
The people in our community were restless. They asked us what they could do to help us and make a difference in the wake of Jared's death. So in the immediate aftermath, we sent them to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Farm and Wilderness (F&W), a Quaker-based summer camp Jared loved, even as others provided donations to us for something we knew we wanted to do in Jared's spirit but that we were not yet ready to figure out.
This Fund is the result of those donations; they have provided enough to start Jared's Fund Youth Fellowship (JFYF) at Montclair High School (MHS) and a "campership" at F&W for a low-income New Jersey youth.
While our family isn't sure what the Fund will turn into, we believe these initial efforts are the right types of initiatives that celebrate who Jared was and how his spirit can inform how we can make a difference going forward. The community that lifted us up when we needed them made it clear that we weren't the only ones who felt a need to reduce stigma about mental illness, to create spaces where we can support our own, and to encourage research, conversation, advocacy and art that creates space for silenced individuals-- both those we know and those we don't. We want to start by using the Fund to open that space in the community where we grew up, the community that we call home.
One Hope for the Future
Even as we continue to develop the vision for Jared's fund, we are working to ensure the success of our first two efforts, including by extending JFYF beyond its three year pilot period.
We welcome your support in multiple ways, including by making a donation to our efforts. Potential donations can go to either of our initial projects, or to Jared's Fund in general. We expect to host a fundraiser in the coming months to gather friends, celebrate Jared's memory, and introduce the initial cohort of fellows.
Applications for 2019 are now open!
Jared Zimmerman was raised in Montclair, attending the Montclair Community Pre-K, Rand Elementary School (back when it was in the old location at the corner of Chestnut and North Fullerton), Renaissance Middle School, and Montclair High School. He graduated in 2013. He loved people, music, philosophy, arguing and the outdoors, and spent much time skateboarding in various backyard skate ramps around town. During his time at MHS, he was part of the Civics and Government Institute (CGI), serving as a Justice on the CGI Supreme Court, a participant in the Fed Challenge program, and ran cross-country with the high school team. He could be found on any given weekend at one of his friends’ houses in Montclair, and was a lively participant in the MHS community. He loved to cook, he loved to write, and he beat his father at chess regularly.
Around his eleventh grade year of high school, Jared developed a mental illness that was probably schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (his doctors never provided a firm diagnosis). After a long, complex struggle, in which he took a few years away from school, he attended Bard College, determined to receive his college education. Ultimately his mental illness resulted in his death on April 15, 2016, when he was 20 years old. Jared’s Fund Youth Scholarship is part of a multifaceted effort to try to support youth who have faced or have family who have faced similar mental illness, and are determined to fill the gap in research, knowledge, and community-wide support related to mental illness.