Family starts 13Forever charity in remembrance of son who died from brain cancer

Fundraiser will take place July 24 at C.J. Barrymore’s

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby-Utica News | Published July 13, 2022

 Justin Townsend

Justin Townsend

 The Townsend family, of Shelby Township, has strived through the tragedy of losing their son, Justin, to brain cancer to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, local hospitals, research facilities and families going through similar circumstances.

The Townsend family, of Shelby Township, has strived through the tragedy of losing their son, Justin, to brain cancer to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, local hospitals, research facilities and families going through similar circumstances.

Photos provided by Roy Townsend


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Roy Townsend and his wife, Carol, experienced a tragedy almost eight years ago that most families couldn’t imagine.

Their 13-year-old son, Justin, was diagnosed with brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, in 2013, and he passed away Aug. 7, 2014.

Justin was a happy 12-year-old who was looking forward to starting junior high school when he started having severe headaches in September of 2013. He was rushed to the emergency room, where doctors discovered a brain tumor. Justin required brain surgery three days later, which brought about a diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme, a highly aggressive brain cancer.

The family went to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for Justin’s cancer fight. Though the hospital couldn’t save Justin, it made a great impression on the Townsends, who decided to do what they could to bolster the hospital’s mission. They formed Team JBird  to raise money and help support the families and children receiving treatment from St. Jude.

Recently, Roy and Carol decided to form 13Forever Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to tell people firsthand about St. Jude.

“Over the past 7 years, Team JBird has raised over $130,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. With a desire to increase our contributions, give back to the numerous cancer organizations and research facilities that help us during our darkest times, 13Forever was founded. It is a lot of work but a labor of love,” Roy said in an email.

They want to help find better ways to fight this disease. 

“No parent should ever be told, ‘I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do,’” Roy said.

Now, 13Forever is teaming up with local businesses willing to help sponsor events, starting with its Summer Blast at C.J. Barrymore’s to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. July 25 at CJ Barrymore’s with a barbecue and a reserved, private, covered patio. An unlimited-ride wristband and food and drinks will be included. Tickets cost $100 and must be purchased online by July 17. Visit to buy tickets.

“One of the local hospitals that will benefit from our fundraising efforts will be Royal Oak Children’s Hospital. Great people who help us a lot. It is a new Children’s Cancer Charity founded in Michigan, for Michigan,” he said.

Daniel Biebuyck, a longtime family friend, said he has known the Townsend family over 30 years and has known Roy since elementary school.

“Our families have grown up together and will end up being friends longer than Roy and I. I cannot tell you how proud I am of this family for staying positive, strong and together through the tragedy of losing their son Justin to brain cancer. From the first diagnosis until he passed away, Mom, Dad and Sister never left his bed. For a year, you would never see the 3 of them together unless you visited the hospital or their home; they always made sure one of them was with Justin. We would have fundraisers for their family,” he said via email.

He said that while growing up, Justin got the nickname JBird; how and why, he’s not sure, but the nickname stuck.

“So when Roy and his family decided to do the St. Jude Walk/Run, they came up with the name Team JBird. I think the first St. Jude walk was at Lakeside Mall and had over 30 JBird walkers. The team grew every year. Carol wanted people to show up, and Roy wanted donations. Either way, Justin’s memory was being kept alive. We love that kid,” he said.

After last year and from what Roy told him, Team JBird raised over $30,000 for St. Jude.

“Later, I found out, Team JBird was 31st in the nation for fundraising across the nation for the St. Jude Walk/Run 2021. I ask Roy, ‘How we going to top this?’ A couple weeks later while at dinner, he explained how he was going to keep a promise he made Justin and help families forced to go through the worst nightmare of their lives. He was going to start his own non-profit charity so he could host several events to raise money for pediatric cancer … 13Forever was born,” he said.

Bill Sicheneder, another family friend, said that being a part of the Townsends’ journey through pediatric brain cancer to today has been nothing short of incredible.

“The Townsends took their tragedy and used it as motivation to create something for local families that truly makes a difference. We miss Justin every day, but knowing 13Forever has been created to provide hope and compassion for local families that are going (through) pediatric cancer fills our hearts, and (we) know it will accomplish great things,” he said in an email.

He said that, even though the charity is newer, it has already made a big impact on those involved over the years.

“Although 13Forever is a newly formed 501(c)(3), the aspiration to provide assistance to families going through some of their most difficult times has everyone involved fully engaged and inspired,” he said.

For more information, visit