His Lovin’ Ways: Johnjay Van Es dedicates career to adoptable dogs, foster children

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Tucson native Johnjay Van Es paces nervously inside Grimaldi’s in Old Town Scottsdale. He and his 93.7 KRQ FM morning show partner, Rich Berra, have interviewed some of the world’s top celebrities. But this time, Van Es is about to chat with a hero: John Travolta.

“When I was in elementary school in Chandler, I wore a Welcome Back Kotter T-shirt for my school pictures,” Van Es says.

He pulls out his cellphone and slides through pictures until he finds it. There are photos of dogs, his family and finally him wearing the Welcome Back Kotter shirt. Van Es isn’t one to get starstruck. These days he’s more enamored by adoptable dogs and foster children.

Through #LovePup, Van Es, his wife, Blake, and three sons love and care for rescue dogs, so when the animals transition to their new families, they have all they need. It’s a family project, indeed.

“I want to teach my kids empathy, compassion and character,” Van Es says.

He travels an unconventional road to help dogs get adopted. To adopt from Van Es, there is no charge, although he’s strict about potential dog parents.

“I have had a blessed life,” he says. “But I think to get a dog adopted from me, I really like to take my time researching the person.”

He is planning to work with PetSmart Charities to promote National Adoption Weekend, September 14 to September 16.

Van Es is planning to open an adoption center and bring the model to different states. Van Es recently returned to Tucson to find his former elementary school was for sale.

“I’ve never seen that before,” Van Es says. “It made me want to buy it and put #LovePup Tucson there. Imagine how many dogs we could save if every classroom was a place where we could house/love dogs.”

Van Es uses his celebrity connections to film videos of stars like Charlie Puth and Ed Sheeran with adoptable dogs.

“Ed Sheeran isn’t a dog person, so I went to a cat rescue, and I brought a bunch of kittens,” he says. “Do you know how many people wanted to adopt the kittens he was playing with?”

Johnjay Van Es’ career in radio was written in the stars. He lived in Tucson until the fifth grade with his Dutch father, who managed two Taco Bells, and his Mexican mother.

When he was 11, he moved to Chandler, where he attended Knox Elementary, Chandler Junior and Chandler high schools. His mother found a job at Burger King, while his dad was employed by Kings Table. Van Es delivered newspapers.

When he was 14, Van Es won movie passes to see Sixteen Candles from the very station that now employs him.

“My dad would tell me, if you find something you love to do, you don’t have to work a day in your life,” he says.

Van Es agrees with that sentiment. His passion extends beyond music, celebrities and dogs. He and Berra founded the #LoveUp Foundation. They, along with the Arizona Department of Child Safety, recently surprised a group of graduating eighth-grade foster children with brand new Chromebook laptop computers through a new pilot program that aims to put technology in the hands of kids in Arizona’s foster care system.

With a grant from the Scottsdale Active 20-30 Club, #LoveUp purchased $22,000 worth of technology for the DCS pilot program. The 100 laptops were distributed this summer to foster children who have been nominated by their DCS case managers.

“The #LoveUp Foundation is proud to continue our partnership with Arizona Department of Child Safety,” Van Es says. “Foster children deserve to have the same advantages as other kids. If we can help make this happen, we are serving our mission to the best of our abilities.”

For more information, visit lovepupfoundation.org or loveupfoundation.org.