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Mom carries her late daughter's legacy of helping classmates after she passed away from cancer

The mother organized two annual fundraisers at schools to help students who can’t otherwise afford to take part in graduation celebrations due to financial constraints from medical costs.

Mom carries her late daughter's legacy of helping classmates after she passed away from cancer
Cover Image Source: Tom Coughlin Jay Fund

A mom is making sure 8th graders in schools can afford to have fun at their graduation. Nikki Jimenez's 14-year-old daughter wanted to graduate before cancer would take her away. Gianna "Gigi" Valentin was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 8 in 2016. Sadly after multiple surgeries and rounds of radiation and chemotherapy for her brain tumor, she passed away in 2022 at the age of 14. Before her passing, the honor roll student had one goal, to make it to her graduation and her school helped her make it happen.


The school held a special ceremony for her in the hospital where the neurosurgeon handed her her diploma. Her mom Nikki, who was six months pregnant at the time, wore a cap and gown and walked in her daughter’s place at the school-wide graduation. 

The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, the charity founded by the Super Bowl-winning NFL coach played a huge role in helping Gigi's family during this difficult time. Coughlin previously told PEOPLE that a family would have to spend an average of $833,000 to deal with childhood cancer. “Can you imagine how a regular family can handle that?” he said at the time. His charity has been helping such families since 1996.

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Gigi's mom adopted a “pay it forward” mindset after being helped by the charity. Nikki organized two annual fundraisers at schools in Bayonne to help those who couldn't be a part of 8th-grade graduation festivities due to financial constraints from medical costs. It was a special cause to young Gigi who even Venmo’d friends who couldn’t afford to go to their middle school prom $20 each from her hospital bed so that they could go and have a good time. 

Remembering the time her daughter received her diploma and when the Jay Fund set up a photo shoot, Nikki said, “We were able to see how happy that made her. I wanted to provide that same happiness to other families in that position. It gives me a sense of peace knowing that her memory is love and helping other people.”


It's beautiful to see people come together in dark days of sickness, especially among children, to shine some light on the terrible situation. In recent news, a TikTok user helped Drew Patchin, a 10-year-old with brain cancer, and his younger brother get star treatment at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Drew only has a few months to live so Kristen Sotakoun—who goes by @notkahnjunior on TikTok—used her influence to work out something magical for the sweet boy.


"Red alert, red alert! If you are a cast member at Walt Disney World, or you are someone who is going to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party tonight at Magic Kingdom, Friday, September 29th, I need your help," Sotakoun said in a video shared online. She told her 1.1 million followers, "If you see Drew and his brother Tyler, pretend that they are famous and say hi to them. This is so wonderful and this is so easy to accomplish."

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News of the duo spread like wildfire and everyone came together to make their day extra special. The boys, dressed as Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger, were treated like royalty, with both cast members and visitors recognizing them every 15 minutes or so. Disney employees would scream the boys' names and even ask for Drew's autograph and pose for photos. Drew even got to see his all-time favorite character, Dopey, along with other famous characters. “It was amazing to see a lot of people come together for these two boys in such a simple way,” his 43-year-old mom told The Washington Post.

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