Moms United in Tragedy: Children’s Legacies Live on Through Philanthropy
May 2023 Issue
by Lesley Kyle
Photography by Cassidy Dunn Photography
Two families’ lives changed forever on the night of December 4, 2021. Around 10:30 p.m. at the intersection of Becks Ferry Road and Old Charleston Highway in Hardeeville, JonPaul Gonzalez, 19, of Bluffton, and Madison Klepesky, 18, of Philadelphia, died in a tragic car accident. JonPaul, also known as JP and Jonny, and Madison were killed when their car was struck by another motorist. The USCB Students, who were dating and wearing seatbelts, died instantly at the scene of the crash.
JP had an easy laugh and hailed from a family of boys. He shared a close bond with his younger brother, Brandon, and forged strong relationships during the holidays with extended family in Mexico. JP was a summer camp counselor at Hilton Head Plantation for three years, and the “Rising Star Award” was founded in his honor. A commemorative bench and bike rack were installed near the camp and pool area. JP also traveled with St. Luke’s Youth Group on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Last year, the Gonzalez Family embarked on the same journey to see the house JP built the previous year. Two additional houses were dedicated in JP’s memory. One of JP’s teachers observed that the young man “made being kind cool.”
An enthusiastic and dedicated soccer and team player, JP demonstrated his love of the game by refereeing and playing for his club, Tormenta FC, and Hilton Head and Bluffton Schools. “Soccer was such a huge part of his life and our lives as a family,” said his mom, Christina Galbreath-Gonzalez. “It was truly our foundation as a family, and it was part of who he was.”
One of eight children, Madison had a brilliant smile, contagious laugh, and love for all around her: not just family and friends. Among her many talents, “Madison created restaurant-quality meals and the most beautiful charcuterie boards I’ve ever seen!” said proud mom, Jenifer Klepesky, who relocated to Beaufort several years ago. “Madison was also a talented seamstress who made Christmas dresses for her sisters, Veronica and Mary Kate.” Perhaps most importantly, Madison told everyone she loved them. After her tragic passing, one of Madison’s friends inquired if she could launch a T-shirt fundraiser in Madison’s memory. The shirts would announce Madison’s message, “Tell Your Friends You Love Them!”
An unimaginable tragedy brought Christina and Jenifer together, but they honor their children’s memories and legacies in different ways. “Madison and JonPaul were in love. They found true unconditional love at a young age, and I believe had they not been killed, they would have one day married and lived a long happy life together,” said Jenifer. “JonPaul and Madison are where we all hope to be one day, and they are ‘home.’” JP’s senior class quote – “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” - also decorated his dorm room wall. JP’s and Madison’s words of wisdom would later become the foundation for these dedicated moms’ philanthropic work in their children’s memories: The JonPaul (JP) Gonzalez Scholarship Fund and Madison’s Miracles, Inc.
After JP’s tragic passing, the decision to dedicate a scholarship fund in his memory became a natural choice for his family. “There are so many benefits to being part of a team,” said Christina. “If we can help others in JP’s name, we want to do that.” JP’s family launched a scholarship coordinated by the Ibis Foundation, and the first recipients were announced last June. The scholarship will also fund new equipment for Tormenta FC Academy, JP’s cherished soccer club.
Madison’s Miracles recently helped a student attend prom by purchasing her dress. The organization also provided financial support to two families whose children were killed by a drunk driver. Their plans include the launch of “Madison’s Closet,” which will accept donations of gowns, suits, tuxedos, and accessories. “We would also like to start a monthly nonclinical support group for those who are mourning the loss of a child or sibling,” said Jenifer. “I have not been able to locate any groups specific to that type of loss in Beaufort County. We would like to change that.” On June 10, Madison’s Miracles will host its first annual 5K race where participants are encouraged to share a photo and the name of the person in whose memory they are running. The race—aptly named Flying Angels Run, We Run for Those Who Fly!—will start at 8 a.m. in downtown Beaufort.
The Race Details:
Flying Angels Run,
We Run for Those Who Fly! 5K
June 10th | 8 a.m. | Downtown Beaufort
Sponsorship opportunities are available, and prospective donors and race registrants can learn more on the website: www.madisonsmiraclesinc.org.
Additional information on the Flying Angels 5K Race and to shop, volunteer, or learn more, visit www.madisonsmiraclesinc.org.
One hundred percent of the proceeds benefit Madison’s Miracles and JonPaul’s soccer scholarship fund. To donate directly to the fund, visit www.theibisfoundation.org/jp-gonzalez.