JP JumPers Foundation: JumPing In to Make a Difference

When James Perry “JP” Mines was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old, it set into motion an inspiring, 17-year-long community effort led by his mother Pam.

Originally coming together for a walk in 2007, the JP JumPers consisted of six individuals who recognized the need for greater inclusion and support for the special needs community in the Richmond and Tri-Cities area. The team ventured into other volunteer endeavors to help additional efforts such as voter registration and feeding the homeless, but a walk became tradition – growing to more than 200 walkers by 2013.

Motivated by the motto “Jump In,” which was a nod to JP’s endless energy and exuberance for life, Mines eventually established the JP JumPers Foundation (JPJF).

“I knew we had something special, and because of the outpouring of support for JP, I wanted others to feel the same,” said Pam Mines, founder and executive director of the JP JumPers Foundation. “That’s when I decided to start my [own] nonprofit named after JP – the person who jumped on and off of everything, breaking ottomans, sofas and even trampolines.”

When the organization officially became a nonprofit in 2013, members posed for a “BLUEtiful PICture” in front of the Science Museum of Virginia. Now, JP JumPers’ highly anticipated annual event is a 2.5-mile Autism Walk that brings in more than 400 registered walkers and includes a marching band, parade and public safety officers. Its most recent walk took place in April.

Building a safer, more understanding place

While hosting a variety of annual, free events across the Richmond area is still its primary function, JPJF has been an avid advocate for the special needs community in more ways than one.

In 2014, Mines worked with Virginia lawmakers to get JP’s Law passed: Legislation that allows individuals with intellectual disabilities to voluntarily add an innocuous code to their driver’s license or I.D. card that enables law enforcement and first responders to recognize and be more understanding with those who have a diagnosis. 

“I initiated JP’s Law because I knew that if my son interacted with law enforcement and it ended with something happening to him physically, it would be justified,” Mines said. “Justified because he likely would not comply, he may make a sudden movement, and more likely not understand the instructions given to him.

“Nothing tragic happened to my son, but something could have happened to my son.”

Statistics show someone with autism is seven times more likely to have contact with law enforcement. Mines understood that those with special needs may respond differently during unusual circumstances, and she was fearful for tragedy to strike, while also empathizing with law enforcement and first responders as they make judgment calls during serious situations.

The law expanded to Washington, D.C., and Mines works with local police departments across the DMV to train officers on how to understand people like her son.

Now, more than 4,300 citizens in Virginia and D.C. currently have the JP’s Law identification. Mines’ goal is to see JP’s Law spread to more and more states, protecting the lives of special needs children and adults nationwide.

More to do

As for the future of JP JumPers, Mines will continue to pursue events and avenues for support that bring the special needs community to the forefront. While autism and other diagnoses are serious in nature, JP JumPers was created to break through traditional stereotypes and emphasize the joy and excitement that comes with coming together as a community.

“Abilities, talent, fun and laughter are not often associated with the special needs community,” Mines said. “The public often thinks of pity and helplessness… JP JumPers offers events, a space and good energy for those in the community to come out and loosen up while supporting a good cause.”

Visit the JP JumPers Foundation website to learn more and get involved. 

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