Johnjay Van Es dedicates career to dogs, foster children SanTan Sun News

Johnjay Van Es dedicates career to dogs, foster children

September 5th, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
Johnjay Van Es dedicates career to dogs, foster children
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By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski, Staff

Johnjay Van Es paced nervously inside Grimaldi’s in Old Town Scottsdale. He and his 104.7 KISS FM morning show partner, Rich Berra, have interviewed some of the world’s top celebrities. But this time, Van Es is about to chat with a hero: John Travolta.

“When I was in elementary school in Chandler, I wore a Welcome Back Kotter T-shirt for my school pictures,” Van Es said.

He pulled out his cellphone and slides through pictures until he finds it. There are photos of dogs, his family and finally him wearing the Welcome Back Kotter shirt. Van Es isn’t one to get starstruck. These days he’s more enamored by adoptable dogs and foster children.

Through #LovePup, Van Es, his wife, Blake, and three sons rescue dogs, love and care for them, so when the animals transition to their new families, they have all they need. It’s a family project, indeed.

“I want to teach my kids empathy, compassion and character,” Van Es said.

He travels an unconventional road to help dogs get adopted. To adopt from Van Es, there is no charge, although he’s strict about potential dog parents.

“I have had a blessed life,” he says. “But I think to get a dog adopted from me, I really like to take my time researching the person.”

#LovePup will come together with fellow rescues from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, for a big adoption event at Vertuccio Farms, 4011 S. Power Road, Mesa.

#LovePup Family Fest will feature rescues, food, live music and dog adoptions. Madison Beer, who was discovered by Justin Bieber, and Ocean Park Standoff will perform. Admission is free, but donations of dog supplies are requested.

At his last family fest, more than 10,000 people showed up and all the rescue dogs were adopted.

“These rescues were cleaning up and they were all emotional because their dogs were adopted,” he said. “Plus, there were leashes, diapers, bags of dog food, canned food and treats. It’s cool to give back to the rescues.”

Miracle Mile Deli in Phoenix will donate $1 per pastrami sandwich sold from Sept. 6 to Sept. 30 to #LovePup. The kickoff is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, with a KISS FM appearance, T-shirt sales and adoptable dogs.

Van Es is planning to open an adoption center and bring the model to different states. A Tucson native, he returned to the city to find his former elementary school was for sale.

“I’ve never seen that before,” Van Es said. “It made me want to buy it and put #LovePup Tucson there. Imagine how many dogs we could save if every classroom was a place where we could house/love dogs.”

Van Es uses his celebrity connections to film videos of stars like Charlie Puth and Ed Sheeran with adoptable dogs.

“Ed Sheeran isn’t a dog person, so I went to a cat rescue and I brought a bunch of kittens,” he said. “Do you know how many people wanted to adopt the kittens he was playing with?”

Johnjay Van Es’ career in radio was written in the stars. He lived in Tucson until the fifth grade with his Dutch father, who managed two Taco Bells, and his Mexican mother.

When he was 11, he moved to Chandler, where he attended Knox Elementary, Chandler Junior and Chandler high schools. His mother found a job at Burger King, while his dad was employed by Kings Table. Van Es delivered newspapers.

When he was 14, Van Es won movie passes to see “Sixteen Candles” from the very station by which he is now employed.

“My dad would tell me, if you find something you love to do, you don’t have to work a day in your life,” he said.

Van Es agrees with that sentiment. His passion extends beyond music, celebrities and dogs. He and Berra founded the #LoveUp Foundation. They, along with the Arizona Department of Child Safety, recently surprised a group of graduating eighth-grade foster children with brand new Chromebook laptop computers through a new pilot program that aims to put technology in the hands of kids in Arizona’s foster care system.

With a grant from the Scottsdale Active 20-30 Club, #LoveUp purchased $22,000 worth of technology for the DCS pilot program. The 100 laptops were distributed this summer to foster children who have been nominated by their DCS case managers.

“The #LoveUp Foundation is proud to continue our partnership with Arizona Department of Child Safety,” Van Es said. “Foster children deserve to have the same advantages as other kids. If we can help make this happen, we are serving our mission to the best of our abilities.”

Pups and Pastrami Kickoff, Miracle Mile Deli, 4433 N. 16th Street, Phoenix, lovepupfoundation.org, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, charge for meals. Miracle Mile will donate $1 per pastrami sandwich sold in Sept. to #LovePup.

#LovePup Family Fest, Vertuccio Farms, 4011 S. Power Road, Mesa, lovepupfoundation.org, 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, free admission.

Special to SanTan Sun News

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