NORMAL, Ill (WMBD) — Between the grieving comes a night of celebration for the family of Jelani Day, who invited the public to the launch of The Jelani Day Foundation at Illinois State University on Saturday.
“I think he would be very pleased. I know he’s looking down on us. I know he’s proud of us. That’s the goal. We want to make him proud,” said Day’s older sister, Dacara Bolden.
Day was an ISU student studying to become a doctor. He went missing last August, and his body was ultimately found in the Illinois River.
Though the night was filled with smiles, hugs, and dancing, family members said it was also a bittersweet evening.
“It’s an accomplishment to be able to have done this and to have done it in a great and positive way,” Bolden said. “But the bittersweet part is my brother is not here.”
Bolden said the family’s mission through Day’s foundation is to help other families of color when their loved ones go missing.
“We want to make sure that the next family, if they happen to go through this, that they are a priority. We want to make sure that everyone gets the access and resources that they need,” she said.
The event also featured congressional representatives from Illinois, members of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and the George Floyd Memorial Foundation.
“And it’s just not about Jelani Day. It’s ensuring that other families do not experience what this family has gone through,” said George Floyd Memorial Foundation Executive Director Jacari Harris.
Day’s family is hoping to initially raise $100,000 for the foundation to provide resources for other families. Resources include funds to help conduct searches, consultation before engaging with law enforcement, and resources for therapeutic services.
For more information or to donate, visit www.thejelanidayfoundation.org.