September 22, 1988 - August 3, 2005
JW House began as the idea of Jan-Willem (JW) Knapen, a boy who in the midst of battling cancer, wanted to do something to help other children and families facing similar situations.
JW, born in Belgium, was no stranger to challenges. He started life two months premature and was diagnosed with leukemia at age four. Despite these early hardships he thrived and moved to San Jose with his family: Anne Marie, Geert, Helena, and Elisabeth. Two years later his brother Alexander was born. During this time, JW blossomed into a talented, generous, and happy teenager with an infectious smile. In 2002, while a freshman at Bellarmine College Preparatory, JW suffered seizures and was later diagnosed with brain cancer. Throughout chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, JW remained positive and hopeful though he knew he faced an uphill battle. He developed a special friendship with his doctor, Alan Wong, and began to think of ways he could leave something to help his friend as well as other children who might follow in his footsteps.
With his smile and sense of humor intact, JW began raising gifts of time and money from those around him. Within a couple of years he succeeded in raising several hundred thousand dollars from all over the world. He helped with the sale of blue wristbands emblazoned with his motto: “Never Ever Give Up!” and inspired bake sales, pancake breakfasts, lemonade stands, an art show, and a Christmas concert.
Thousands of individual and group donors, young and old, from across the globe sent in heartfelt donations from $2.00 to $100,000!
JW watched with a happy heart as each day his dream became more of a reality, and when he died in August of 2005, he knew that family, friends, and even strangers were more committed than ever to building JW House. Since then, with additional fundraising and building efforts, the goal of creating JW House has been met. JW House is now open and operating as a “home away from home” for families of patients being treated at hospitals in Santa Clara Valley. Since its grand opening in 2008, JW House staff and volunteers have welcomed thousands of new friends to enjoy a warm meal, much needed respite, friendly support, and comfortable beds.
JW inspired many with his good cheer, courage, and selflessness. He taught his friends – children and adults alike – that one person can make a difference. His legacy continues to touch the lives of others and inspire us to never, ever give up.