New Team Jak cancer hub opens in Livingston
A CANCER charity set up in memory of a courageous teenager’s battle against the condition say they are “ready to help more people than ever before” after celebrating the opening of their new headquarters.
The Team Jak foundation - established as the dying wish of heroic youngster Jak Trueman - opened their first hub in 2015 to provide emotional and practical support for young people living with the disease.
However the centre became so popular, the charity - founded by Jak’s mum Allison Barr - revealed plans to create ‘Jak’s Den mark two,’ back in 2017 on what would have been the teenager’s 18th birthday.
And hundreds of guests have now marked the opening of the organisation’s brand new central hub at Ochil House in Livingston.
Jak, who was posthumously awarded the Edinburgh Evening News Local Hero title in 2015, passed away after a short battle with a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer less than a year after being diagnosed.
As well as indoor spaces for music and play therapies, media zones and a soft play, the new Jak's Den will offer an outdoor activity space featuring a specially commissioned angel tree, allowing loved ones to pay emotional tributes to those they have lost.
Allison said the new centre would allow the charity to welcome more families into the den, admitting it was an “emotional day” to see Jak’s vision come to life.
She said: “This is everything Jak wanted and more, the whole project has been a long time coming and at times it has been a wee bit of a slog, but looking at what we have here now, it is all absolutely worth it.”
“This new facility is going to allow us to reach more families who need support at a critical time and with our new spaces for parents, including our ‘pampering area,’ we will be able to offer practical and emotional help when they need it most.
“An absolutely incredible amount of money has been raised for us to create this space and everyone who has volunteered their time and effort to help us get to this point deserves the biggest thank you.”
She added: “For this to be Jak’s legacy is just absolutely incredible, for us, it is everything to see his vision realised.”
The new centre also features a new ‘sensory play room,’ as well as a specially designed area for older children complete with Smart TV and air hockey tables.
Fiona Kerr, from Kirknewton, began using the centre after daughter Islay, four, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2017 and described it as a “safe haven” for parents and children alike.
Fiona, 42, said: “With anyone undergoing cancer treatment, you have to be very wary of the environment, wherever you go, but at the same time, Islay is at her stage of life where she needs to be socialising with other kids.”
“For something like that, Jak’s Den is heaven sent, it gives us a place where we can go to be around other children and families who are going through the same experiences.
“We have a network of parents now who we can talk to and the Islay and her brother Lewis have other children to be around, it is a safe haven for so many people.”