Nicole Clavo: Turning personal tragedy into a mission to help others

On Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, Nicole Clavo's life would forever change.

On Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, Nicole Clavo's life would forever change.

Her son Jaulon 'JJ' Clavo was a 17-year-old football player at Grant High School. He and his teammates were driving back to campus after getting food. It was the night of a big playoff game.

JJ never got to play in that game. He would never go onto graduate high school and go to college, like he and his family always planned. Another car fired at the car JJ was in, killing him and injuring his teammate.

"I have to stand strong. This is bigger than me, bigger than my son," said Clavo. "These tragedies are happening all over the world and we have to come together. Not just to talk about it, but really put action forward."

Clavo may have lost her son, but, still, she never lost faith in her community. The rest of the season, Clavo still attended football games at Grant High.

"This is what my son loved to do," said Clavo. "I still have babies I have to support. I'm going to continue now that he's gone."

Months went by with no arrest.           

"I hurt every moment, every minute, every hour of every day. I will continue to hurt for years to come," said Clavo. "Someone knows who these killers are. They need to come forward."

Chief Daniel Hahn of Sacramento Police first remembers meeting Clavo shortly after JJ's murder.

"When something first happens, people are very angry. They don't know what to do. I know she was angry," said Chief Hahn. "Somehow, she was able to bottle that up to still stay calm [and] help solve the crime."

On Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, Sacramento Police announced they had a suspect in custody.

"Three months is a relatively short time, but it's a long time in my world," said Clavo, at the podium during the press conference. "I would've never imagined being in this place, but I'd never imagine having this support I've had throughout this time."

Instead of hating the suspect, Clavo felt sympathy and compassion. 

"His [family] may have a son or grandson in the physical sense," said Clavo. "Although [his mother] will be able to visit, phone calls, letters, she won't be able to share in those plans you may have for your children grandchildren in the future. She will miss out on some of the things I will miss out on."

Even when seeing her son's alleged killer in court, Clavo's feelings didn't change.

"Seeing him in person didn't change anything either. He's just a kid. It's just sad that we're here today," said Clavo. "I will continue that fight to prevent further tragic events such as this."

Nearly two years after JJ's death, Clavo has kept her word to fight and has gone above and beyond. She started The Healing 5 Foundation, in memory of JJ, to help other families who go through unexpected tragedies. 

"I rarely can go to an event, especially in the North," said Chief Hahn. "We have an award named after her son. She's present to present. She's also very willing to be involved in PD."

Chief Hahn said Clavo is also helping the police department better understand what grieving families go through after a tragedy.

Clavo has also raised scholarship money to send students to college and brought together other grieving parents for support groups. 

In August, through her Healing 5 foundation, Clavo sponsored eight parents and siblings to attend the Parents of Murdered Children conference in Irvine. The national organization is a support system that offers resources to those who have lost a loved one to violence. 

"I think what I'm looking forward to most is being able to be there for the parents," said Clavo. "For some of them, it hasn't been a year yet. Being able to meet other families going through this, seeing how their coping."

Clavo raised the money for everything from registration costs to breakfast vouchers to gas cards and hotel room fees.

"On one hand, we honor Clavo for exactly what she's doing to take her pain to try to help other people," said Mayor Darrell Steinberg. "On the other, our hearts go out to her because that pain doesn't go away."

At the conference, Clavo shared with ABC10's Frances Wang a moment she had when she went to the District Attorney's office to pick up gas cards for some of the parents. There, she met a police officer, who had something to tell her.

"[The officer] said she had been wanting to talk to me for the last 20 months. She was the responding officer on the scene," said Clavo. "She tried to save his life and that she talked to him and rubbed his arm and comforted him, prayed for him and told him he was a good boy, that he was loved. He actually took his last breaths with her."

Clavo adds the officer was fighting back emotions, while telling her this story.

"You could hear it in her voice. It was caught up in her throat. You could see it in her eyes," said Clavo. "All I could do was just cry and thank her."

Clavo said it was a moment of relief because losing a child in such a violent way, she put her own story together on what happened.

"I had a timeline that I put together, for her to give me the end story of how it really played out, it was a relief. It was a relief to know my son died with a woman who was a praying woman, a believer in God," said Clavo. "As I tell this story, it's always emotional to me because it was his final moments and him being my baby boy. Knowing how much of baby boy he was, it was important to know that he was shown the love I would've shown him if he was there."

For Clavo, her way of coping with the pain is by making sure JJ's memory lives on through her life's work.

"She is a model for teaching us all how you move ahead and how you try to take the worst kind of tragedy and do everything you can to make sure other families don't suffer the same," said Mayor Steinberg.

"She really epitomizes what we have to be as a community," said Chief Hahn. "We need 100 Dr. Clavos because she definitely makes a difference."

"I will continue to do the work I'm doing here in Sacramento," said Clavo. "Despite whatever goes on in life, you still have choices. You have to choose whether you're going to be a victim or a survivor. I'm choosing to survive."

 

© 2017 KXTV-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment