The life, rather than the death, of Adrian Jones will be remembered Saturday.
Many are expected to gather for a community motorcycle, car or truck ride from Shawnee to Topeka to honor Adrian’s life and raise awareness for child abuse prevention. The goal is to spotlight the need for improved legislation at the state Capitol to protect children like Adrian.
“We can’t forget about him,” said Stephanie Knight, co-host of the event. “Sometimes in situations like this, you tend to remember the perpetrators and not the actual victims.”
Adrian was 7 years old when he died in 2015 after being tortured and eventually starved by his father and stepmother, Michael and Heather Jones, while they lived in Kansas City, Kan. They have since been sentenced to life in prison. Investigators say Adrian’s body was disposed of by feeding it to pigs where the Joneses lived, at 5201 N. 99th St.
Court records revealed several social workers in Kansas and Missouri investigated repeated hotline calls and listened as the young boy talked of how he was beaten and neglected at home by both his father and stepmother. Yet he remained in the home.
Judy Conway, Adrian’s maternal grandmother, along with a mother and daughter from Kansas City, Janell Pace and Knight, will host Kansas City Rides for Adrian Jones as a way for the community to remember the young boy’s life and raise awareness for victims of child abuse.
The event will begin at the Sunflower House, a nonresidential children’s advocacy and abuse prevention center, in Shawnee and end at the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka.
Prior to the drive, there will be a balloon release in honor of Adrian, and his older sister Kiki Doctor will follow with a prayer she wrote.
The group of women is asking for a donation of $25 per vehicle but will not turn anyone away who does not meet the cost. The money raised will go toward a memorial for Adrian, a possible headstone for the boy and additional help for his two sisters, who were also under the care of the Jones family.
Pace and Knight decided to reach out to Adrian’s grandmother after repeatedly reading his story online. They saw that after almost two years, nothing in the community had been done to remember him.
After previously hosting another ride for a separate cause, the two planned this event to raise awareness for the life of Adrian and abused children across the country like him.
“This little boy was strong. He probably showed more strength than any of us in our entire lives through his short life, and I felt like people needed to remember who he was,” Knight said. “There was no memorial for him; nothing had been done, and it was all about the perpetrators. So, we needed to do something for Adrian.”
The significance of the ride to the Capitol is to raise awareness for change in child abuse laws, whether it be within the Kansas Department for Children and Families or just creating a database of high-risk children for both Kansas and Missouri to refer to.
“I hope to bring awareness for all the kids out there right now that are being abused” Pace said. “I hope that there is a change. We want to get people to write to their state representative and just become more aware of child abuse and reporting it, because this goes on every single day.”
Along with raising awareness for a change, Conway is working to pass Adrian’s Act, a bill that would require adults who live in the same home where a child is being abused to report it. This act would amend a current law that only held mandated reporters legally accountable for sharing signs of abuse.
“I hope when a child uses their voice and says they’re being abused, that not only will someone listen, but someone will act, too,” Conway said. “Because you know, Adrian used his voice a lot, and there were a lot of people that heard him, but no one acted to get him out of that situation.”
Other ways to remember Adrian are in the works, including his funeral, which Conway and other family will hold in Lawrence. Adrian’s name and picture will be added to a monument that will be built at the Freedom Fountain in Brush Creek Park, and a bench is being made to honor him as well.
Although Adrian was once a young boy who was locked away and abused, the community is coming together to honor his life and show that he was truly loved.
“When I lay in bed at nights that I can’t sleep, I do talk to him,” Conway said. “I just let him know that I’m still fighting for him, that I never forgot about him and that even when I couldn’t see him, Nana loved him so much.”
She remembers the last time she saw him. Conway knelt down in front of Adrian and told him how much she loved him and would always be there for him.
“It’s been a hard thing for me to get past, just the thought of him being abused and how many times he wondered when Nana was going to come and get him,” Conway said. “It took me a long time to be settled in my heart with that. I just don’t want any other grandparent to have to go through anything like this.”
▪ Registration of vehicles will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Sunflower House at 15440 West 65th St. in Shawnee. The balloon release, followed by a prayer, will take place at 11:30 a.m. The ride will begin at 11:45 a.m.
▪ The ride will begin outside the Sunflower House. It will end after a straight ride to the Kansas State Capitol at 300 S.W. 10th St. in Topeka.