JJ’s Angels, Part 2: Celebrating Juliana Every Year

by Rebecca Bernot, St. Baldrick's Foundation
February 27, 2015

This is part two of a two-part series where Mike LaMonica talks about his daughter JJ, the Hero Fund that carries her name, and why this weekend is so special to him. Read part one >

Photos of smiling Juliana
Mike LaMonica hasn’t missed his local St. Baldrick’s event once since his daughter Juliana, or JJ, passed away in July 2010. This will be his fifth year captaining the JJ’s Angels St. Baldrick’s team, and for the fifth time, he’ll be shaving his head alongside friends, family, colleagues and neighbors who have been touched by Juliana’s story.

“When I go to the St. Baldrick’s event at Kitty Hoyne’s, it’s like a holiday to me,” Mike said. “I’m surrounded by people who are so passionate and just support me. I feel like I am lifted up — I don’t know how else to describe it.”

The first year after Juliana passed away, Mike shaved his head alongside his 5-year-old son, Andrew, and 18 other family members and friends, including one coworker with hair down his back who drove over 400 miles from his home in Virginia.

Mike and Andrew LaMonica before and after shaving in 2011

Mike and Andrew before and after their first shave in 2011.

The next year, Mike was joined by more friends and colleagues, and even some people he didn’t know. Hearing story after story of how Juliana had touched them and moved them to action amazed Mike. “I was just blown away,” he said. “Like, wow — there’s Juliana, changing people’s views on life and what’s important. It’s incredible.”

Those people are a big part of the reason Mike and his wife, Christine, started the JJ’s Angels Hero Fund last year. “We thought about starting a nonprofit, but we just don’t really have the time and energy to do that,” Mike said. The JJ’s Angels St. Baldrick’s team had already taken on “a life of its own,” he continued, having nearly tripled in size from 2011 to 2014, and he wanted a way to connect their efforts through the years. “I also want to be able to say to all these amazing people, ‘Look at what all your efforts and love and support have done.’”

Learn more about St. Baldrick’s Hero Funds >

JJ's Angels in 2011 and in 2014

Left: Some of the JJ’s Angels team in 2014. Right: Mike’s friend and coworker, David, shaves in front of a photo of Juliana.

To date, JJ’s Angels have raised over $160,000 for childhood cancer research, helping the Kitty Hoyne’s event become one of the top fundraisers in St. Baldrick’s history. And if you ask Mike how he does it, his answer is simple: He doesn’t.

“It’s not me. I feel like I’ve been given an opportunity and a vehicle, but really, it’s her,” he explained. “It’s Juliana.”

Knowing that, Mike said, is something that keeps him going. “When your child passes away, your biggest fear is that little by little she’s forgotten. But these people that do this with me every year do it because of her. They’re there because of her, and they’re honoring her and remembering her,” he said. “And that is one of the most powerful and amazing things that I’ve ever been able to experience.”

Read more about Juliana on the JJ’s Angels Hero Fund page, and see how you can help fund childhood cancer research in her memory.

JJ’s Angels Hero Fund

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