A family friend of the Reynafarje family, Kimberly Baker, has set up a GoFundMe to provide support for the family after losing their 5-year-old son PJ Reynafarje.
“My dear, longtime friend Crystal and her husband, Paul, have suffered the unimaginable loss of their beautiful son PJ who passed away on Jan. 31,” Baker wrote on the GoFundMe page. “PJ was just 5 years old and the brightest light and sweetest soul. He was the strongest, bravest child.”
PJ was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, which many people are familiar with through Auggie Pullman, the fictional character from the movie and book, “Wonder.” The syndrome affects facial development, often leading to difficulties breathing, eating, hearing and seeing.
Treacher Collins is extremely rare, affecting only one in 50,000 people. PJ was featured in a May 2021 feature in The Signal, in which his mother described how she hoped his story would teach others to be kinder and more accepting of differences.
PJ and his mother traveled to schools across the country as certified “Wonder Speakers” with the Children’s Craniofacial Association, reading “Wonder” and answering questions about PJ’s differences for students from kindergarten through second grade, while raising funds to help other kids with Treacher Collins.
On Jan. 31, PJ was with his mother Crystal Kouri Reynafarje shopping inside of the Ralphs on Pico Canyon Road at approximately 2:50 p.m. when he began choking on uncut, whole grapes, according to Brian Elias, a spokesman for the L.A. County Coroner’s Office and an Instagram post made on @pjs_playhouse by Crystal.
“I always cut his grapes in half, being that he has a small, obstructed airway,” read the Instagram post. “I carry a de-choking device with me at all times. I carry an intubation kit with me at all times. And yesterday, while shopping in the supermarket, I allowed him to eat whole grapes — uncut. He choked.”
PJ flatlined in the ambulance and was pronounced dead at an area hospital, according to Elias and the Instagram post.
Baker created the GoFundMe on Thursday with a goal of $50,000.
“They had tirelessly championed for their son’s well-being during his short life, and I ask you to rally around them in their time of need,” she wrote on the GoFundMe.
The GoFundMe states that all of the donations will go toward the cost of a send-off for PJ and to support his parents financially to take time off.
“Please help support them, in any way possible, so they may give their beautiful little boy the send-off he deserves and enable both Crystal and Paul to take some needed time off so they’re able to support one another,” the GoFundMe said.
The GoFundMe, at the time of this publication, has raised $21,393 with 210 donations.
Those wishing to donate to the GoFundMe can do so at gofund.me/b5816966.