It’s been 18 months since Temple University student Jenna Burleigh was brutally murdered just days before classes started.
The 24-year-old had been out drinking with friends at a popular bar near campus in 2017 when she met 29-year-old Joshua Hupperterz. The two went back to his apartment and she was killed some hours later.
Burleigh’s family endured months of misery. After the death of her daughter, Jackie Burleigh sat in court as lawyers poured over the grisly murder details and showed horrifying pictures of her child's final moments.
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Those images are not what Jackie Burleigh wants remembered of her daughter. Instead, Burleigh wants the world to honor Jenna Burleigh for the “vibrant” and “sassy” person that she was, and the person she wanted to become.
“She really believed in equality but the underdog is who she always fought for,” Jackie Burleigh said.
To that end, her family is honoring the young woman's memory through Jenna’s Blessing Bags. It’s a project she started before her death. Jenna Burleigh would fill up backpacks with gently used goods - such as gloves, jackets and sleeping bags - and deliver them to people in need. Her family joined in the effort initially, but they are now taking it to new heights.
Nearly 1,000 bags have already been distributed in Philadelphia and throughout the five surrounding counties. The Burleighs have also enlisted the help of their relatives, who have distributed backpacks as far as Massachusetts, Colorado, Florida and even Canada.
“We just wanted to make sure that people didn’t forget her,” Jackie Burleigh said. “It makes my heart smile because [people] are so grateful every time you give them a bag.”
The family also created a new foundation dedicated to helping people in need - a mission that inspired Jenna Burleigh even as a child.
“She would go to 7-11 and buy people food,” her mother said.
The foundation has already raised more than $100,000, and they are accepting more donations both in the form of cash but also volunteer time. Anyone interested in learning more can visit the group’s Facebook page here.