Jak’s Den to extend Livingston cancer support centre

Donna Wilson with daughter Sophie and son Ryan who is in remission. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Donna Wilson with daughter Sophie and son Ryan who is in remission. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A MOTHER whose young son was diagnosed with leukaemia is backing a campaign to raise funds to extend a centre that supports sick children.

Donna Wilson from Livingston said Jak’s Den in the town provided an indispensable space for therapy and support after her son Ryan, nine, was diagnosed with leukaemia two years ago.

Jak’s Den is such an amazing place, the new Den is going to benefit so many families.

Donna Wilson

The centre is run through the Team Jak foundation inspired by Jak Trueman, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood cancer in 2014.

The building is a hubbub of activity, buzzing with games, laughter crafts and love and provides families with a lifeline, offering emotional support during the hardest moments of their lives.

“When Ryan was diagnosed we were so shocked and devastated – how could our active healthy little boy be so ill?,” said Ms Wilson.

“It was so hard to deal with but I found speaking to families in the same situation helped a lot to deal with everything.”

As well as a physical space to enjoy activities, the centre looks to support parents and siblings through special counselling and guidance sessions.

And it is being surrounded by families who understand the painful journey that Ms Wilson said makes the centre such a special place.

“Ryan finds Jak’s to be a normal place to go. All the people there are feeling the same as him, they know his background,” she said. “He has taken part in lots of activities such as music therapy which has helped with his confidence and anxiety.

“He had made friends there and can play with computers and catch-up with other people, many of whom he has met along the way.”

Ryan, a pupil at Harrysmuir Primary School, is in remission but Jak’s Den remains part of their lives. Ms Wilson is urging people to back the Team Jak Foundation’s effort to raise £180,000 for a new Den.

“Jak’s Den is such an amazing place, the new Den is going to benefit so many families in so many different ways.”

Allison Barr, Jak’s mother and the charity’s founder, is eager to reach as many people as possible. She said: “We have 64 families using the Den now and many more who could be. It’s a real privilege to see them come in and relax and share with others in the same position.

“Our counselling and music therapy has taken off and we are in the process of establishing a full family support programme. The second Jak’s Den will allow us to develop this programme to help more young people across Scotland.

“We are hoping, if we manage to raise enough money, that work will commence on the exterior early in December and begin on the inside early in the new year.”

As well as indoor spaces for music and play therapies and a soft play, the new Jak’s Den will offer an outdoor space with a spa, a music pod and a counselling pod, a zen garden, and a memorial garden. To donate, visit https://mydonate.bt.com/events/jaksden180000