A fund set up to make tragic cancer teen Jak Trueman’s final dreams come true has broken through the £100,000 barrier in just a few months.
The 15-year-old was desperately ill when he launched an appeal to help raise money for Jak’s Den, a special retreat for children affected by cancer. After he passed away in February his supporters set a target of reaching the magical six-figure sum in time for the schoolboy’s birthday.
However, it emerged today that a flood of donations have helped smash the £100,000 barrier with weeks to spare.
Today Jak’s mum Allison Barr praised Team Jak Foundation supporters for helping reach the astonishing milestone.
“It is absolutely brilliant. Everyone involved is completely overwhelmed, the response has been incredible,” she said.
“We have had some fantastic donations from large organisations which have really helped. And there have been so many people who have done so much, I just want to thank them all.”
Donations have ranged from a few pounds from children selling loom bands or simply donating their pocket money, to four-figure sums from John Lewis and teams from IBM and RBS who cycled 88km around Arran last week.
“People have been incredible,” added Allison. “We even have had money handed in which was collected at funerals. And someone got in touch to ask for gold Team Jak ribbons to tie around their wedding favours.”
The Team Jak Foundation was launched after Jak learned his rare form of blood cancer couldn’t be beaten. The hope is to eventually raise just over £3m to establish Jak’s Den, a special centre where older children hit by cancer can relax, receive support and enjoy comfortable surroundings designed to cope with their special needs.
“Reaching £100,000 is fantastic although it is still a drop in the ocean compared to £3m,” said Allison. “We think £3m is entirely possible. This is just the start.”
Jak launched a massive fundraising drive to help other young cancer patients and even managed to take his girlfriend Hannah Boyd to a hastily arranged end of school “prom”.
The Mid Calder teen’s broad smile and bravery inspired thousands of people around the world to send donations and messages of love and support to the Team Jak Foundation.
Now his mum, Allison Barr, has revealed special plans to make sure his 16th birthday on September 21 is celebrated in style.
“On his birthday we will have balloons all over the house just as we always have done,” she said.
“We’ll have big balloons shaped like the number 16. We’ll have a party and then we’ll sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him and have cake.
“We will celebrate it and make a big thing of it. Hopefully it will be a really positive day for us all.
“I’m sure it will be emotional,” she added. “But I want to be positive and smile.”
The family will gather beside Jak’s final resting place in an emotional celebration to mark his milestone birthday.
Then they will release balloons into the sky and join hands while they sing Happy Birthday to him.“Some people may find it strange that I’m having a birthday celebration for Jak now he’s gone,” Allison added.
“Having something to focus on and more importantly honour and remember him and his birthday with, is imperative for me.”
The celebrations to mark Jak’s special day don’t stop there. His Team Jak Foundation is planning a series of events which it’s hoped will push its funds across the £110,000 barrier in time for his big day. “We are asking people on Facebook to join in during September and carry out a random act of kindness or mention something they’re grateful for, donate £1 and then tag 16 people to encourage them to do the same,” said Allison, a part-time primary school music teacher.
“On the weekend just before his birthday, we’ll have a huge ‘gold’ themed event at The Centre in Livingston.”
The celebrations run from September 18-20 and include a series of fun events ending with a fundraising team bowling party at Deer Park.
Money raised will go towards making Jak’s dream of creating a haven for young people affected by cancer, called Jak’s Den, come true.
His vision was for a building which would provide a place for young people to gather to listen to music, relax and to chat. At its heart would be a sterile cafe providing food and drinks suitable for their special needs.
While the charity is focusing on providing the Den in the long term, Allison revealed it has also launched other initiatives to help families hit by the nightmare of childhood cancer.
Last week it emerged that Hearts goalkeeper Neil Alexander, who became friends with the youngster, is to help head the Team Jak charity.
The Team Jak Foundation also provides a voucher to grieving parents who have lost a child, offering them a poignant keepsake toy handmade in their youngster’s favourite clothes.
And within weeks Allison will launch a Team Jak sibling support group to help teenage brothers and sisters of desperately ill children.
Eventually she hopes to create a similar network for parents. “There’s support for younger children but nothing for teenagers,” said Allison, who is also mum to Aimie, 17.
“One of Jak’s wishes was to set up a sibling support group. We want people through Team Jak to know they’re not alone.
“Through my own experience I’ve found there’s little to help parents through it either.”
She has also started writing a book, My Beautiful Boy, which will pay tribute to her smiling son and shine a light on how she is coping with her own grief.
“I want to get some of the taboo away from death,” she added. “I want people to know it’s okay to grieve and feel rotten. After all, there will always be a massive part missing.”
Earlier this month marked six months exactly since Jak, who played in goals for Mid Calder Colts Under-16s, lost his battle against a rare form of blood cancer called gamma delta T-cell lymphoma.
Despite facing the worst, the caring teenager made plans for the future – sitting down to write birthday and Christmas cards to loved ones to be given to them on special days.
Allison received one on Mother’s Day and another on her 45th birthday earlier this month. She opened the latest card while standing beside his grave. Inside he had signed just “Jak”, his hand simply too weak to write anything more.
His birthday brings to a head an emotional few weeks for the family. It is exactly a year since Jak first fell ill and six months since he passed away.
Recently Allison lost her grandmother. And the summer holidays were difficult as they were times the family of three spent together.
“It hit me even more during the school summer holidays,” she revealed. “We used to spend summer as a family, the kids would be off and I was at home too. The reality hit.”
She said the family would aim to celebrate Jak’s milestone birthday just as they would if he were with them.
“I always went ‘OTT’ with birthday parties for Aimie and Jak every year – they always had themed parties with everything matching and games and cake linked to their chosen theme too. Jak would have had a party with family and friends for his 16th like Aimie had.
“Instead I have to have his birthday cake and balloon release at his grave.”
She added: “I want to let people know there is hope and you can still honour your child and still love them even though you no longer have them.”
• Find out more about the Team Jak Foundation by visiting www.teamjak.co.uk