A Utah mom described as "a light to countless lives" has died after her loved ones say she suffered a brain injury doing what she enjoyed.
The "tragic horse accident" that ended Jessica Bender's life happened on Oct. 24, close to three months after she and husband Tom Bender welcomed their first son, Wolfe Lee, according to a GoFundMe page set up by her friend Brandon Plewe.
"One of Jessica and Tom's deepest desires was to start a family. Wolfe came into the world just a few short months ago on August 10, after many years of waiting and IVF treatments," Plewe wrote. "Jessica’s friends will tell you that having Wolfe was a dream come true. Now it is up to us to ensure that this sweet baby can have a secure foundation in life."
Described as "soft-spoken and full of beautiful spirit in every positive way," Jessica "knew how to live with purpose" and touched the lives of many, Plewe noted.
"Jessica always sought out those in need with love, respect, and empathy towards everyone she met," he wrote of his friend, whom he called an "inspiration."
The Utah mom also loved being outdoors and "had adventure in her DNA, whether she was summiting one of Utah's many peaks, exploring a red rock canyon, or riding a favorite horse trail," according to Plewe.
Professionally, Jessica owned a studio called Box Street Design in Salt Lake City, where she worked as a designer, the GoFundMe stated.
"[Her studio] was thriving and full of promise," Plewe wrote. "Her lifelong dedication to her art inspires us all to be our best selves every day."
In 2011, Jessica married Tom, who also works in design, according to his Facebook page.
Plewe noted on the fundraiser that over the last nine years, the pair "embraced the spirit of entrepreneurship" in their respective art-related endeavors, and later achieved their dream of starting a family in August 2020.
However, because both were "self-employed and are not part of a larger healthcare plan," Plewe said he set up the GoFundMe in the wake of Jessica's death to assist Tom with her medical expenses and to support Wolfe as he grows older.
"These badly needed funds will help cover the costs of the life flight, Jessica's treatment/surgery, and help build a fund to defray costs for childcare and the future of this dear baby Wolfe," Plewe explained on the fundraiser.
"Tom has not requested this fund, but we know that any donation and/or sharing this fundraiser is one of the best ways we can show our love and support for this incredible woman and her heartbroken family right now," he added.
As of Tuesday, the fundraiser has raised over $181,000, and many of Jessica's loved ones have paid tribute to the Utah mom in the comments section.
"Jessica touched our hearts and brought joy to our lives," wrote one person, while another added, "I can't list all the ways Jessica positively impacted my life… Her impact was profound. We are heartbroken for Tom, baby Wolfe and her entire family. We will miss her dearly."
"Jess is one of the best people I’ve ever met. So kind and gracious and pleasant. My heart aches," commented someone else.
Added another: "I had the pleasure of meeting Jessica as a vendor from LA that would travel to her design firm and instantly wanted to be her friend. Her creativity, kindness and free spirit will be missed."
In addition to the GoFundMe, a Commemo page was also set up for friends and family to share their favorite memories about the mom of one. The tributes will be compiled into a book, which will be printed on Dec. 4, 2021, according to her page.
Those interested in donating to Jessica's GoFundMe page can do so here.
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