Friends, community reach out after a mother’s death


Jess Hampton (left) posed with her mother before she passed away in November. Hampton’s friends have started fundraisers to help Jess pay her tuition.

If you have been on Facebook recently, you may have seen the events “Free Jess!” and “T-shirts for Jess.” Northern Kentucky University and the surrounding community have reached out to sophomore Jess Hampton, who continues to cope with the loss of her mother, Melissa, after her death in November.

After finding out she is no longer eligible for financial aid because of NKU’s GPA requirements, Jess has been trying to pay out-of-pocket for school expenses dating back to last semester, something she did not see coming.

“One of the terms was that I had to get at least a 2.0 last semester, but when my mother passed away I dropped my classes. When something that sudden happens, you don’t think so much about what’s going to happen. I just wanted to be with my family and friends,” Hampton said.

“My mom was my best friend. When she got sick is when we got close and were able to talk about if something were to happen to her. For that, I’m grateful because I don’t have a lot of guilt.”

Many people wonder how to cope with such an incredible loss. Hampton doesn’t hold back.

“One of the things I like to do is cry. I just let it all out because everyone needs to break sometimes, and it’s okay to do that. I will never understand why my mom was taken at such a young age, but it’s made me such a strong person.”

Hampton began receiving messages from people she did not know that had experienced similar situations and wanted to help. Abby Williamson, a close friend of Hampton’s, assisted in starting the “T-shirts for Jess” fundraiser.

“When Jess came to me and told me about how she would have to pay her tuition in full or drop out of school, I was devastated because I knew her mom would have wanted her to stay in school. My roommate and I … decided making shirts to support her was the simplest option and the biggest way to raise money,” Williamson said.

The front of the T-shirts, which are being sold for $15 each, are adorned with “Team Hampton,” while the back quotes Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small, thoughtful group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Alyssa Cerchio, who also has played a huge role in organizing fundraisers, could not believe the outpouring of support.

“It brings me to tears knowing that we are a part of such a great community. Without all the help from the students of NKU and all of our friends, Jess would be backed up against a wall and would have to drop out of school,” Cerchio said.

Similar fundraisers have been organized on a larger scale. A group of TKE members formed the “Free Jess!” event, which will be held at Local’s Sports Bar & Grill in Cincinnati. Cerchio said that part of the profits from this event will go to Hampton’s expenses as well.

Dominique Smallwood, a TKE member associated with The KY Army National Guard Freedom, is working on organizing and promoting the event. Hampton’s church will be holding a spaghetti dinner in the near future as well.

“I can’t thank everyone enough for the love and support I’ve gotten throughout this process,” Hampton said. “I have an amazing support system that keeps me wanting to stay positive.”

The fundraiser at Local’s Sports Bar in Cincinnati is Feb. 20 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

If you would like to make a donation to help Jess Hampton’s cause, a PayPal account has been set up under the email For information on how to purchase a T-shirt or organize a fundraiser, contact Jess Hampton (, Abby Williamson ( or Alyssa Cerchio (