Family celebrates memory of son with a charity coat collection

Every year, the family asks the community to do random acts of kindness

Family celebrates memory of son with a charity coat collection

Seven years ago on Saturday, Kelly and James Ackerman lost their son, JJ (Joseph James Ackerman), due to a stillbirth. The family received an outpouring of love and compassion following the loss of JJ, and each year they commemorate him through random acts of kindness.

“When we lost JJ, it was overwhelming and we always knew that we would want to somehow thank everyone for all the love and support they showed us during our hardest time while also celebrating JJ and his birthday,” Kelly Ackerman said.

Now on his birthday every year, the Ackerman family has done and asked others to do random acts of kindness in his name.

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“We love seeing all of the unique ways people participate,” she said. 

“On JJ’s 5th birthday, we started calling it ‘A Touch of JJ’ and created an Instagram and Facebook account for people to share their stories of spreading kindness.”

In past years, supporters of A Touch of JJ have donated meals, cleaned neighborhoods, donated to charity, placed notes and flowers on cars and a myriad of good deeds.

The Ackerman's daughter, Madison, is ready for the coat collection.
The Ackerman's daughter, Madison, is ready for the coat collection.

This year, due to COVID-19 and social distancing, the Ackermans wanted to create a safe option for people to participate.

“I’m a big fan of Steve Udelson, and Steve’s Coats for Kids is always a charity we like to take part in,” Kelly Ackerman said. “I have also loved all of the birthday parades that have taken place throughout this pandemic and thought it would be the perfect idea to combine the two and make it a birthday donation parade.”

WSOC-TV’s Steve’s Coats for Kids campaign was introduced in 2005 and asks the community to donate new and gently worn coats of all sizes. All coat donations are distributed through Crisis Assistance Ministry, an independent nonprofit agency focused on preventing homelessness and preserving dignity for Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s working poor.

“I see the hard decisions being faced every single day because of the pandemic, everyday people talk about how they lost their job or they’re out of savings,” she said. “With the cold weather coming, I think this is perfect timing to combine remembering JJ through the coat drive.”

On Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., the Ackermans will have a car parade in their Mooresville neighborhood at 1054 Muirfield Drive, where anyone and everyone can drive by and donate new or gently worn coats.

“We want it to be a celebration. We want it to be a good, good birthday parade with people driving by and honking and making noise,” she said.

Steve’s Coats for Kids has collected over 200,000 coats, and every donated coat spends less than 48 hours in the Crisis Assistance Ministry Free Store before benefiting someone in need.

There are more than 70 Steve’s Coats for Kids donation locations across the Carolinas, including Showmars, Ashley HomeStore, E.R. Plumbing Services, Crisis Assistance Ministry and all Charlotte fire stations.

If you have an inspiring story, please contact Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte Public Affairs Manager, at