New foundation formed to honor Rocky graduate (2024)

True to a Rock Island High School alum who was passionate about his community, a new fundraiser is being introduced in honor of DayQwon (DQ) Jones – a 2014 Rocky graduate, multi-sport athlete, a father, son, brother, and friend who lost his life due to a rare cancer.

The DQ Strong Foundation is now underway, named after Jones (who died at 27 a little over a year ago), an accomplished athlete who participated in football, basketball and track & field for RIHS from 2011-2014.

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DQ Strong Foundation has partnered with Rock Island Football, UnityPoint Health Quad Cities and the American Red Cross to host the inaugural DQ Strong Football Invite on Wednesday, June 26 at 4 p.m. at Rock Island High School’s Almquist Field.

On Dec. 14, 2022, DQ was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Renal Medullary Carcinoma. The disease most commonly occurs in people who carry the Sickle Cell Trait, and is more common among young Black men. Due to the rarity of the cancer and its link to sickle cell, the actual strain of cancer wasn’t identified until months prior to DQ’s passing on May 22, 2023 at the age of 27.

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After graduating from Rocky, Jones completed two years of college at Western Illinois University. He worked as a supervisor at Performance Food Group, Rock Island. He was a member of Destiny Baptist Church, Rock Island.

“His greatest love of all was his 3 girls. They were his whole world,” Jones’s obituary said of his daughters Michaela (now 2 years old), Azaylah, 7, and Ila, who will be 8 on June 23 (born to three separate mothers).

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“He loved spending time with his girls going to the park, doing their hair, shopping, watching TV, and playing games. DayQwon was loved by many, he had a heart of gold,” his obituary said. “He helped many people over the years, was a protector of all, and was a true leader. He made everyone feel special and loved.

“He was a true friend to all and an incredible person. DayQwon gave unconditional love, support, guidance, warm hugs, and laughs,” the obit said. “His smile was big, bright, cheerful, and charming. He was our shining star.”

The DQ Strong Foundation’s goal is to increase research, education, and awareness of the rare Renal Medullary Carcinoma cancer, in terms of risks, prevention, early detection, and optimal treatment.

“Through this foundation, we wish to raise awareness not only in the surrounding area but worldwide,” according to a press release from the group. The majority of donations made to the DQ Strong Foundation will be given to organizations aimed at conducting research on these rare forms of cancer.

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They are also working towards launching a petition to enact a bill in Illinois which requires hospitals and birth centers to provide sickle cell disease education and annual testing for each newborn baby considered high risk for Renal Medullary Carcinoma, which represents less than 1 percent of all kidney cancers.

In the U.S., it is usually found in younger Black people, according to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

RMC forms in a part of the kidney called the renal medulla. About 70% of cases develop in the right kidney.

Working for a friend

Thurgood Brooks of Rock Island was close to Jones. Brooks was a senior when DQ was a freshman, and he said recently Jones’s favorite sport was football, where he was tight end, receiver and a linebacker. He and Brooks both wore the same uniform number, 32.

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Brooks came up with the foundation after DQ first got to Peoria, before he was diagnosed. “We went to visit him and literally the first thing he said, we got in there, was ‘We gotta figure out what this is and how we can help others’,” Brooks recalled.“That’s the kind of person he was like, no lie,” he said. “And so, with his passing, I knew we were gonna do something.”

“DQ, he was a protective person who really had a sense of community honestly,” Brooks said. “He loved Rock Island especially. He wanted to give back the best he could.”The one main thing Brooks learned from people studying cancer is that, “by the time you start feeling pain, often times it’s too late, right?” he said. “And with DayQwon, what we knew is he started, he was feeling pain in his back.”

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He is working with UnityPoint Health and the American Red Cross. UnityPoint would focus on this topic of cancer, and come up with screening questions.“They’ll be able to provide information behind questions you should ask your doctors,” Brooks said. “We’ll also be looking for things on how doctors can be better able to communicate with patients, where you can go to get a provider, things of that sort, how you can work with your insurance, all that good stuff.”

The Red Cross would focus on sickle cell traits and disease, promoting education around that, he said.

June 26 game details

Matchups on the field for June 26 will include the varsity football teams from Rock Island, Davenport West and Galesburg high schools in a 7-on-7 competition.

The cool thing about the June 26 game is all three football head coaches are Black, as is the Steamwheelers coach, Brooks said. He hopes to grow the number of teams for future years.

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Games will be refereed by members of the Quad City Steamwheelers. In addition to the games, UnityPoint Health will be providing cancer screening information and awareness while the American Red Cross will be providing Sickle Cell Trait education.

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Sponsorship opportunities may include, but are not limited to:

  • T-shirts for athletes, coaches and spectators
  • Meals for athletes
  • Marketing and promotional materials
  • Financial donations

If you would like to donate to the cause, checks or other forms of payment can be made out to DQ Strong Foundation. Donations will be made in DayQwon Jones’s name.

You can contact Brooks at 309-428-7405 or

New foundation formed to honor Rocky graduate (2024)


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