Jaeden Sharpe lives on, makes impact through foundation

Feb. 15, 2014 @ 11:13 PM

Jaeden Sharpe and his brother wanted to start their own clothing line. The goal was to take their brand to school and show it off.

While thinking up ideas, Jaeden was stuck on the word “impact.” He wanted it involved in the name somehow, because the clothing line wasn’t about making money. The line was about impacting the people around them.

Jaeden died a day after the first “J.J. Sharpe Impact” T-shirt was printed.

He’s the first Durham murder victim of the year, at only 9 years old. Jaeden was with his mom in an SUV when he was shot Jan. 4. His mom was injured. Jaeden was on life support for the next five days until he was taken off of it.

Police charged 23-year-old Everett Lamont Graves with his murder.

On Saturday, a new Durham nonprofit created in Jaeden’s honor participated in an annual charity basketball game. Dozens of people lined the stands to learn about the J.J. Sharpe Impact Foundation, formed to connect children impacted by violence with athletics and arts programs as well as counseling, education and mentoring. A college fund also was created to assist families and children with tuition and expenses.

Valarie Brown with the foundation said the basketball games were about awareness.

“We can come together in peace and harmony, have fun together and share a common goal,” Brown said. “No more violence.”

Her daughter, Vallyn, helped Jaeden with his original T-shirt designs. She was Jaeden’s godmother, known to him as “Val-Val.”

“Bye-bye, Val-Val, I love you,” were his last words to her.

Vallyn said seeing his clothing line come to fruition is like an artist hearing his song on the radio for the first time. They sold the T-shirts at the game, and she gave his whole class at W.G. Pearson Elementary School a shirt.

Valarie said Jaeden wanted to make an impact through his clothing line, and his death has made an impact on Durham.

“He was excited about going to school and introducing his clothing line,” she said. “And the next day was the introduction of tragedy.”

D3 Community Outreach, an organization for disconnected youth, organized the event at the Emily Krzyzewski Family Life Center Saturday. Founder Malcom Reed said Jaeden had his whole life ahead of him.

Brenda Howerton , vice-chair of the Durham County Board of Commissioners,  watched as siblings ran to the snack bar and as youth basketball teammates chatted together in matching uniforms.

“They’re safe here,” Howerton said.

When someone is killed in her community, she said it feels like it’s her own child. Gun violence is an issue that hits close to home for Howerton.  Two of her own children have died this way.

But seeing children and parents together and feeling that positive energy inside the gym, she said these events of community belonging are what Durham is working toward.