Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Feltingoff, known to friends and family as “Jonny,” was a stand-out young man.
“He was just a true leader,” said his older sister, Carrie Feltingoff, a senior at the University of Miami who lives with type 1 diabetes (T1D). “He fought against gun violence. He was the leader on his basketball team. He volunteered to coach kids with disabilities in basketball. He was an all-around community guy giving back. That was just his passion.”
Jonny was an active citizen and a leader—not only for his classmates at North Broward Prep High School and the broader Boca Raton, Florida, community—but also within his own family.
Even though he was the youngest of the three Feltingoff children, he was always the most mature one. Especially when it came to his sister, Carrie, and her struggles with T1D.
“Jonny grew up watching Carrie struggle with this disease from a very young age,” said Sharon Feltingoff who aside from being mother of Carrie, Ben and Jonny Feltingoff, co-owns JC White, a Florida-based award-winning architectural interior product firm, with her husband, Mark.
“I know that every time Carrie hurt, Jonny hurt,” said Mark Feltingoff, the family patriarch who is also CEO of JC White.
Shortly after Carrie’s diagnosis—which happened 10 years ago right before her 12th birthday—the family found JDRF. Mark joined JDRF’s corporate board and the family regularly participated in OneWalk and other JDRF events. But no one—not even Carrie herself—matched Jonny’s enthusiasm to end T1D.
“Jonny-on-the-spot is what we used to call him,” Sharon added. “He was the one who Carrie would turn to when she was having a low… His room was really directly next to Carrie’s, so he would run and get her juice or whatever she needed. And it was really Jonny’s hope to find cure for Carrie.”
“Johnny always got all of his friends to participate in the walk,” added Ben Feltingoff, a sophomore at Indiana University Bloomington and the middle Feltingoff child. “One year, he got his entire basketball team to come.”
A Shocking Tragedy
Then, on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, tragedy stuck. Jonny was hit by a motorist while he was riding his bike. He died later that day from the injuries he sustained.
Losing Jonny so unexpectedly and at such a young age sent shockwaves of extreme grief through the Feltingoff family and the broader community. It was a dark time for all who knew Jonny.
“There was just such an outpouring of support because of who he was and his character,” Carrie said. “What his teachers thought of him. What his friends thought of him. What his family thought of him. What strangers thought of him.”
But from that darkness, a glimmer of light—inspired by Jonny—prompted Carrie and Ben to take action.
“So the day after Jonny died, Carrie on a whim decided to put together a GoFundMe Page,” Sharon said. “As you can imagine, we were in shock and just couldn’t believe the tragedy that had befallen our family. And Carrie just put it up on social media. Didn’t even say a word to anybody. And the next thing you know, it just morphed and took on a life of its own.”
Through their campaign, Carrie and Ben Feltingoff raised approximately $83,000, a very successful GoFundMe campaign.
The family has graciously committed their own funds to bring the total to $100,000—an impressive total gift in Jonny’s memory. The gift will support JDRF’s Beta Cell research at the family’s request.
Love & Basketball
In addition, a group of Jonny’s friends designed hoodies they are selling online. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will go to JDRF in honor of Jonny’s memory.
On the hoodie, the words “Fly High Jonny” surround a ball with wings to represent another one of Jonny’s passions: basketball.
“We want to remember Jonny through JDRF or something diabetes related—Carrie has T1D but I have type 2 diabetes—so there was always a passion for it, “ Mark said. “But we will likely also do something with basketball and underprivileged, urban youth.”
“Jonny was always the type of kid that always saw people—no matter who they were—as people. He just always wanted to figure out a way to help anyone who was suffering,” Ben said.
“He was keenly aware of how privileged he was,” Sharon added.
The Feltingoffs have already started working with community organizations to explore how to best combine Jonny’s love of service with his love of basketball.
“It could be with the boys and girls club—it could be with one of the sports teams,” Mark said.
One of the sports teams could be the NBA’s Miami Heat. The team reached out to the Feltingoffs this summer. Jonny was an avid Heat fan. He went to their basketball camps and even had a Miami Heat-Themed Bar Mitzvah. He was buried in his Miami Heat jersey and his favorite high top basketball shoes.
Living the Way Jonny Wanted Us to Live
For all who knew Jonny, he left a powerful lasting impression. But perhaps no one has taken Jonny’s legacy to heart as dramatically as Carrie has.
“When I was diagnosed he was 6. Through the years, I put my family through a lot,” Carrie said. “I was in DKA twice. I was very noncompliant.”
“The past 6 months I want to say, we all were shocked by the total transformation that Carrie made,” Ben said. “She started taking better care of herself. Jonny would be so insanely proud of what Carrie has been doing. I feel like, that’s why she’s been doing what she has been doing. She knows how much Jonny cared about this. I am happy that she’s continued with this even after the tragedy that we experienced.”
“Jonny always stood by me,” Carrie said. “Because I put my family through so much, I feel that he was always standing by me and encouraging me.”
“That is how we will live Jonny’s legacy… By living the way he thought we should live,” Mark said. “Because of Jonny… We are all going to be better humans. We will be sadder forever but we will be better people.”