BRAIN WAVES

Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

Johnjay Van Es Brightens Brainiac Bash Lineup

Johnjay Van Es doesn’t usually judge people; however, on January 14th, he will make an exception… as one of the celebrity judges for the dancing competition at the Brainiac Bash Soirée Promoting Brain Health, presented by Jerry Bisgrove-Stardust Foundation, in support of the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona.

Johnjay and Mom at Lourdes

Three months before she passed, Johnjay and his sister took their mother to Lourdes, France, known for its healing waters. He explains that as a Mexican woman, it was always her dream to make the pilgrimage and the memory still moves him.

Johnjay Van Es Brightens Brainiac Bash Lineup

Johnjay Van Es doesn’t usually judge people; however, on January 14th, he will make an exception… as one of the special guest judges for the dancing competition at the Brainiac Bash Soirée Promoting Brain Health, presented by Jerry Bisgrove-Stardust Foundation, in support of the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona.

Johnjay and Mom at Lourdes

Three months before she passed, Johnjay and his sister took their mother to Lourdes, France, known for its healing waters. He explains that as a Mexican woman, it was always her dream to make the pilgrimage and the memory still moves him.

Anyone who knows Johnjay, the host of the immensely popular Johnjay and Rich syndicated morning radio show, is familiar with his desire to help others. His LoveUp Foundation supports the foster care system, while LovePup helps find homes for abandoned dogs.

LoveUp is where he connected with Brainiac Bash chair Kathy Pidgeon, who has worked tirelessly through the court system to assist foster children. Their relationship is a close one—Kathy is also a board member of LoveUp and has even adopted her own four-legged friend through LovePup.

“When Kathy asked me to judge Arizona celebrity dancers, I automatically said yes,” recalls Johnjay. “She’s an amazing person with such a huge heart and promoting brain health is such an important cause.”

The invitation means more to the California native, though, as his life has been touched by brain injury in a profound way.

In 2011, his mother died due to a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a highly aggressive grade 4 glioma brain tumor. He watched her suffer for 18 months as her condition deteriorated. “Early on, before we knew what she had, she collapsed and broke her nose while coming out of a Starbuck’s,” he shares. “We thought it was just an accident. As her condition got worse, we discovered that the tumor had veins that wrapped around her brain like tentacles.”

Like most family members in such unthinkable circumstances, Johnjay found himself accompanying his mother while she sought care. “We spent a lot of time at Barrow Neurological. The doctors were great, but there was only so much they could do,” he admits.

However, he was determined to make her final days as rich as possible.

Three months before she passed, Johnjay and his sister took their mother to Lourdes, France, known for its healing waters. He explains that as a Mexican woman, it was always her dream to make the pilgrimage and the memory still moves him.

“It was a truly miraculous experience. There were long lines of people with all sorts of ailments. She couldn’t walk at this point and when we got to the front, my sister and I carried her in. We all bathed in the water, sang, and prayed. It was a mixed bag of emotions, and I still can’t put into words how moving it was to all of us.”

Today, Johnjay stresses the importance of raising funds for matters of the brain, from GBM research to programs and services for survivors of brain injury and their families, like those offered by the Brain Injury Alliance. “It changes everybody involved and we need to support all the work being done in these areas,” he attests. “I’m glad I can be part of this.”

His devotion to helping others is shared by his entire family, including his wife, Blake, and their three sons, Dutch, Jake, and Kemp. “Blake will hold babies with brain injury at Hacienda Hospital, while the boys volunteer and do charity work,” Johnjay says. Together, they’re all involved with over a dozen charities throughout the country.

But his upcoming focus is the Brain Injury Alliance’s Brainiac Bash, where he will be assessing the steps of prominent Arizonans who have been paired with professional dancers. “I’m looking forward to checking out the dance moves, laughing and telling stories,” he says.

“More than that, though, is that I enjoy watching other people get enjoyment out of helping people. There’s nothing better than that.”

The Brainiac Bash Soiree Supporting Brain Health will be held on Saturday, January 14, 2023, from 5:30-10:30 p.m., at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia.

Sponsorship and ticket information is available at biaaz.org/2023bash

ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:

  • Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts virtual and in-person support groups for survivors and families
  • Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training, and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages statewide Neuro Info-Line: 888-500-9165

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