A new resident of Southern Oregon, Jeremy Duran told family and friends he was right at home with Kids Unlimited.

Jeremy’s time with KU, however, was sadly and unexpectedly short. He died April 10, 2023, at age 33 from complications following surgery, said his sister, Tatiena Cole. A celebration of his life is planned for 2 p.m. April 30 at his grandparents’ home, 253 Dianne Way, Eagle Point.

“We were so very excited about our future together,” said Jani Hale, principal of Kids Unlimited Academy. “His light went out way too soon. But he will always be remembered by those who saw him work with children.

“Jeremy was an amazing advocate for children,” echoed Tyrone McDonald, KUA behavior coordinator and counselor. “He was a shining example of emotional support and no ego.”

Leaving behind his life in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jeremy followed his sister to the Rogue Valley about six months ago to help out their grandparents, Jennifer and Ted Stephenson. His family-motivated move and position as KUA behavior specialist were the latest efforts in a lifetime of helping others.

At age 18, Jeremy started volunteering at the elementary school he had attended and “found out he had a gift” for working in special education, said Cole. He underwent training to assist students with autism, she said, and worked independently with families in their homes.

“His expertise matched our needs perfectly,” said Hale. “Jeremy came to KUA with a background that included not only years spent in the classroom with children, but also a year with AmeriCorps and a year as a Playworks trainer.”

Expected to live with disabilities, himself, Jeremy was born premature and grew up believing his life would end in his 20s amid chronic conditions, said Cole. Digestive difficulties required Jeremy to have several stomach surgeries, she said, and he continued to battle the aftereffects since he started with KUA in February.

“He ended up defying all the odds,” said Cole.

“He was open about his health journey, and we were willing to open our arms to him because of the depth and breadth of his experience with challenging little ones,” said Hale.

Jeremy’s position as behavior specialist at KUA seemed like the ideal fit, said Cole. He won over staff with his bright outlook and sense of humor, said McDonald. Cole recalled her brother saying “he had never been happier in a job.”

“I cannot count the times Jeremy pulled me aside to tell me how happy he was at KUA,” said Hale.

“It was a privilege to have him as a part of our team and our family, and he has set a new standard of expectations for the work we do,” said McDonald. “That’s how much he meant in the short time he was with us.”