GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — John and Wendy Botts have been overwhelmed by West Michigan’s response to the “Tents in Memory of Jordan” campaign they launched to honor their son.
“We had no idea it would get this big,” Wendy Botts said from the dining room of the family’s home on Grand Rapids’ southeast side.
“Seeing the outpouring of support and love for him, I mean it’s just awesome,” added John Botts.
Jordan Blaauw was 21 years old when he overdosed on a fentanyl-laced opioid on April 17, 2017.
To recognize the year anniversary of his death, his family started a campaign to gather tents, sleeping bags, blankets and other supplies to distribute to homeless people – a group Blaauwe himself often helped.
The young musician and chef, who was diagnosed as a teen with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, felt a special connection to people in need and reached out whenever he could.
Now, West Michigan is continuing his work.
At last count, donors – family, friends and complete strangers – had purchased $4,600 worth of items off the supply list the Bott’s created on Amazon.
That’s in addition to nearly $1,000 raised via GoFundMe.
On one recent day, the Botts’ received around 25 boxes filled with all kinds of items, including deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
The Botts are still collecting supplies, but have also set their sights on a new goal.
They are raising money to purchase new clothes dryers for Unlimited Alternatives, the Grand Rapids drop-in center that’s helping to distribute the supplies to people in need.
UA, located on Fuller Avenue, serves people with mental illness, many of whom are homeless.
The drop-in center has a laundry room that clients can use for free, but the dryers are old and breaking down.
“It’s a pretty amazing service,” said Wendy Botts. “Obviously (having clean clothes) helps provide dignity.”
Unlimited Alternatives needs three stackable, front-loading dryers. If you wish to donate toward the purchase of the dryers, you can do so through the GoFundMe set up for the tent campaign.
While many of the donated supplies go to Unlimited Alternatives for distribution, the Botts are passing out supply-filled backpacks as well.
24 Hour News 8 crewes were there as they handed out purple backpacks to people at Heartside Park in downtown Grand Rapids.
The Botts have dubbed the effort “The Purple Backpack Project,” and they plan to continue it indefinitely, hopefully growing it beyond Kent County.
“Anyone that’s family, they know Jordan loved purple,” explained John Botts. “If you’re downtown and you see purple backpacks, you’ll know it’s Jordan walking around down there, and that’s pretty awesome.”
The Botts have also been moved by the notes that accompanied the donated supplies.
“Saw the news story,” wrote one donor. “Felt moved to help you help the homeless in memory of your son.”
Other donors shared how they, too, lost a loved one to the opioid epidemic.
“I saw you on the news last night and I sobbed with you,” wrote one mom. “I also lost my beautiful boy to heroin six years ago.”
The Botts were also grateful for a letter they received from a friend of Jordan’s.
She wanted to thank them for the way they’ve honored Jordan and his life since his death.
“You have provided another chance to glorify his life by extending kindness to those in need as he so often did,” the letter said. “I will never forget him. His legacy will on through all of us as you have already demonstrated in many ways.”