Joliet, Ill. – “It would seem wrong not to carry on with the passion that Jay had to make people smile.” – Jay It Forward

On Monday, September 25, over 200 students at the University of St. Francis (USF) personally experienced the positive impact that random acts of kindness can create. The students were recipients of gifts cards, goody bags and cash – all unannounced and unexpected – courtesy of Jay It Forward, an organization in honor of the late Jay Vana and his fun-loving demeanor and generous personality.

“The spirit of St. Francis is just something you need to experience first-hand on-campus at USF. That spirit was certainly robust when Jay It Forward celebrated with our students this week. The emotions on the faces of USF students, faculty and administrators was powerful as they opened envelopes and shared their plans of what they planned to do with the gifts they received,” said Lisa Sampalis, Vice President for University Advancement at the University of St. Francis.

Longtime USF supporters Michele and Tom Vana established Jay It Forward to honor the life of their son, Jay, who passed away in a car accident eleven years ago. Along with Jay’s family and friends, Jay It Forward takes to the community on the anniversary of his passing each year to “pay it forward” to with random acts of kindness. Before coming to USF, the organization also distributed similar random acts of kindness at a local fast-food restaurant and gas station.

“As much as it seems like others are benefiting from these random acts of kindness, I am the true recipient of the blessings. Helping others and seeing their smiles and joy is the healing that I need on this day. Making others happy is truly in the spirit of who Jay was. I really feel his presence when we do this in his memory,” said Michele Vana.

The organization also encourages others to consider performing their own acts of kindness as a tribute to Jay Vana.

About Jay It Forward

Jay Vana was a resident of Homer Glen, Ill., and a student at Lockport Township High School who was known for his fun-loving demeanor and generous personality. He, along with his family and friends, often performed random acts of kindness when they heard of others in need. Unfortunately, Vana passed away unexpectedly as a result of a car accident at the age of sixteen on September 25, 2012. Vana’s family and friends founded Jay It Forward as a way to honor his kind-hearted spirit by continuing to perform random acts of kindness.

Please visit to learn more about Jay It Forward.

: :

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

# # #