When her 19-year-old son, Blaze, was killed in January, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein responded to the tragedy with unbelievable grace, poise and love.
She and her husband, Gideon, quickly formed Blaze It Forward, a movement that encourages people to honor Blaze’s memory by spreading kindness.
The Blaze It Forward Facebook page now has more than 16,000 members who share accounts of good deeds and random acts of kindness.
It’s an inspiring mix of folks who are “Blazing it forward” in ways both large and small.
One woman wrote about making a holiday meal for three families.
Another posted a photo of her son assembling care packages they keep in the car to hand out to people in need.
Sign up for The Localist, our daily email newsletter with handpicked stories relevant to where you live. Subscribe here.
One man posted a photo of a note he’d placed on a sheet of plastic on a stranger’s car window. “I noticed your window was down & it’s raining so I covered it. Have a good day. Keep inspiration alive,” it read.
The impetus for Blaze It Forward came immediately after the death, when shell-shocked friends were asking the Bernsteins how they could help.
Blaze Bernstein (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
“My husband and I were trying to figure out how we could allow people who wanted to help us when there was nothing they could do really to help us,” Jeanne said.
Their first project was to ask for donations to Orangewood, a nonprofit that assists children in the foster care system.
For Jeanne, to react with good was the only reasonable choice.
“I’m just a very logical person. I know on a gut level that there is nothing that I could do that will change that outcome, and there is nothing that will bring my son back.
“So knowing that, I just have to think toward the future,” she said. Jeanne is also mother to Jay, 17, and Beaue, 14.
“What kind of a world do I want to live in, and what kind of a world do I want for my children? Those are the things that are important.”
Jeanne also has focused her considerable energies on a technology initiative to allow parents to unlock their child’s devices quickly in the event of an emergency.
“I’ve heard multiple stories about people who have been locked out of these devices when their children have died, and they cannot retrieve their children’s pictures.
“In our particular case, our son left one of his devices unlocked, so we were able to access his email, some messaging and some of his apps. If we had not been able to do that, it is our belief that the man accused of killing our son would not be in jail today awaiting trial.”
The man accused of murdering Blaze – Samuel Woodward – was involved with a hate group.
On the hate group’s page it reads: “We will be here when there is no hope.”
But hope is staying strong on Jeanne’s watch.
Suspect in Blaze Bernstein’s death pleads not guilty, bail set at $5 million
Blaze Bernstein’s parents say killing could be hate crime; suspect used gay slur
Blaze Bernstein stabbed at least 20 times in possible act of rage
High school friend arrested in case of Blaze Bernstein, whose body was found this week in a Lake Forest park
Document reveals insight on investigation into Blaze Bernstein’s death
“If we wallow in hatred and thoughts of revenge now, not only are we wasting the time that we have, but we’re giving in to the exact thing that these hate groups want. I don’t want hate to win.”
Before she left the career world to focus on being a stay-at-home mother to her children, Jeanne was a litigator, and she brings that clear-eyed focus to the task ahead.
“I devoted my life to my family, and my goal was to make children who would make a better world. That was going to be my contribution. One of my children is gone now. I feel like I need to pick up where he left off and do something to make this world better, make something out of this opportunity. Don’t let my son’s life be a sacrifice for nothing.”
Source: Oc Register