Written by Bradi Nathan for Philanthropy Journal
Jack is my son. His life was cut short on July 3, 2020 by fentanyl disguised as Percocet. One party. One night. One pill. One millisecond decision. Jack never woke up.
I am left with a choice. Do I choose to fight the war on fentanyl or do I choose to fight the war on mental illness? Jack was a mental health advocate so the answer is and was an obvious one.
Jack struggled with anxiety and bouts of depression. Quite often he would disappear into painting and design – his outlet and method of therapy. Jack would blast Mac Miller, an artist whose lyrics resonated so deeply, and just paint. It occurred to him that he could parlay his love of art and method of therapy, into a means to help other kids struggling like him. Jack said,“mom, if I can help just one person then it will have been worth it.”
Jack used a new canvas. He began to heat press his designs onto hoodies, tees, and nearly every piece of clothing that he owned. The designs had the words Happy Jack intricately placed within them – a term of endearment bestowed upon him by a casting director when he modeled for Pampers as a baby.
The apparel sold quickly at his college campus as well as others, and in January 2020 Jack sent me a text from his fraternity house saying, “I’ve never been so happy in my life.” Jack had found his purpose and a place to channel his emotions.
Covid hit. Jack came home from school and dove right back into painting and design in order to cope with isolation, boredom, depression and the anxiety of having to take classes remotely. And, while Covid stripped Jack (and all others) of things like socialization, it gave him the chance to form the makings of Happy Jack, LLC. He created a website (happyjacksworld), sourced product and manufacturers, staged a photo shoot, created social media channels and then sat to craft this text. On June 7, 2020 Jack wrote,
“Hi. It’s Jack Nathan. If you’re getting this text it’s because you have been part of my life. Over the past few months I’ve been building a clothing and art company surrounding my struggle with mental illness. It would mean the world to me if you checked it out. A portion of every single purchase is being donated to the “Child Mind Institute” helping children like us with their struggle through mental illness. Thank you for reading, much love, Jack Nathan”
Jack passed away twenty-four days later but not without keeping his promise. He donated $1,000, from his first week of sales, to The Child Mind Institute.
Jack’s father David, along with Jack’s sister Drew, have joined me in keeping Jack’s legacy and mission alive. We continue to run Happy Jack with the goal of donating 15% of sales to mental health foundations.
Jack’s story is one of struggle, yes. But, it is also a story of perseverance, of hope, of one boy’s will to make this world a better place. And, the only way Jack knew how, was to create a community for “the misunderstood” as he called it. A judgment free zone. A place where we all can realize that we our not alone.
Jack may be gone physically but his impact on this world will hopefully be felt for decades to come.