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AT THE BANNER Jolly Jones’ mother, Leslie Gentry, left, with his sister Jasmine Gentry and grandma Rhonda Koch. (Courtesy of Leslie Gentry)

July 24 will mark three years since Leslie Gentry’s 22-year-old son, Jolly Jones, died while detoxing from fentanyl.

Gentry was living in San Jose and working in Los Gatos at the time, so she decided to hold an awareness hike here in town, exactly a year later.

Now in its third incarnation, the Jolly10k Fun Run has grown, and Gentry has built her organization, Jolly Solutions, Inc., into an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

“We got that status about three months ago,” she said. “I’m pretty excited about that. It’s brand, brand new.”

The name of the run comes from the screen name her son used on the internet.

The route, which participants will trace on Saturday, July 20, is about 6.9 miles.

‘I even find three years later that there’s moments every day where I gasp for breath, because a thought comes, or a song comes on’

—Leslie Gentry, Jolly’s mom

This year’s event kicks-off at 8am (day-of registration at 7am), starting at Balzer Field going up Jones Trail to the top of the open space preserve, down to Alma bridge by the dam (where there will be a water station), then back down Los Gatos Creek Trail.

The raffle begins at 10:30am.

There will be booths with free Narcan, which can be administered during an overdose, and other recovery resources and speakers, including a couple mothers who’ve lost children to fentanyl.

Last year, Gentry recalled, a mom whose son had just been killed by fentanyl attended.

“She was able to be comforted. We let her know she wasn’t alone,” Gentry said. “We connected with her. That’s really what I love about this event. We’re opening the doors for a conversation. Because addiction and drugs is such a taboo.”

The event is also a fundraiser for Homes of a Loving Father, a nonprofit men’s recovery home in San Jose.

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SON AND MOTHER – Jolly Jones and mother Leslie Gentry in July 2020. (Courtesy of Leslie Gentry)

As time passes, Gentry has begun rebuilding her life. She recently got engaged and is planning her September wedding in Lake Tahoe.

And now in year three of running the fun run, Gentry has a much better handle on how to pull off the event.

“My team has it down finally,” she said. “It’s wonderful, because now I have people reaching out to me.”

For example, she’s been in touch with a Saratoga High School student who wanted to create a positive impact within his school community.

“He was trying to fight fentanyl at his school at Saratoga High,” she said.

Gentry is trying to get the message out to the youth that medical professionals aren’t in the business of getting you in trouble if you call for help when a friend is in distress due to fentanyl. “That’s one thing that I wish that all people knew: if the unthinkable happens and you get fentanyl-laced drugs or pills, call an ambulance,” she said.

Kona Ice and Grillman food trucks will be at the event.

Gentry is also accepting photos of fentanyl victims (include their name and age: [email protected]) to be recognized on a banner.

“There’s no words for what that means to a parent, because they know that people haven’t forgotten their child,” she said. “Our biggest fear, as parents, is that people will forget that our child lived.”

Gentry definitely hasn’t forgotten Jolly.

“There’s certain times where it seems like it was just a moment ago he was here,” she said. “And then, other times it feels like it was so long ago that I heard his voice.”

Jones’ addiction began while taking pain pills to cope with injuries from football and a violent attack.

“It totally destroyed his life,” she said. “He went to get help.”

He died while detoxing at a recovery home in San Jose.

Suddenly stopping fentanyl usage without proper medical treatment can lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, according to

“I even find three years later that there’s moments every day where I gasp for breath, because a thought comes, or a song comes on,” she said. “But I don’t drown anymore…I can feel the pain and keep my head above water.”

Jones is still her first thought when she wakes up.

“I can hold onto the good things about him,” she said. “I still cry, but I can smile.”Visit to learn more about the event or get involved.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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