TEAM JAK’S CHALLENGE TO MAKE HEROES DREAMS COME TRUE
Team Jak, a 25-strong group of runners, are taking part in Supernova Kelpies to honour the memory of Jak Trueman and fundraise for the charity he formed before he passed away – Team Jak Foundation, who provide practical, social and emotional support to children and young people with cancer and related illnesses, their families, friends and those bereaved.
Jak was a regular teenager enjoying playing tuba in his school band and saving goals with his local and county school football team until August 2014 when he took suddenly and seriously ill. He was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer- Gamma Delta T-Cell Lymphoma.
Five months later Jak gained his wings.
Throughout his illness Jak demonstrated a remarkable strength and positivity and showed extraordinary courage and selflessness when he raised nearly £100,000 in total for various cancer charities while he was ill.
His desire to create a positive legacy grew and 6 days before he died Jak unveiled plans to support other young people walking the same journey as he had and their families. He called his charity Team Jak and charged his Mum, Allison, with the job of building it up and creating Jak’s Den – a huge purpose built facility where young cancer patients and those with other related illnesses and their families and friends could go to escape from the traumas of treatment or relax with their friends in a clean and safe environment.
Team Jak’s Supernova Runners include a group from Charity Partner Blackrock who have raised an amazing £30,000 so far this year as well as Jak’s Mum Allison, Granma Ishbel and other family members, family friends and Team Jak volunteers, all who knew Jak well.
The Kelpies meant a lot to Jak and are now a place his family and friends hold dear which makes taking part in Supernova Run a fitting tribute to honour his memory together. The Kelpies opened in the summer prior to Jak becoming ill when he stopped by for his first visit and a picture with his mum Allison “we always said we’d go back but it was shortly after that Jak took really ill and ended up in hospital”.
“When Jak was out of hospital and we got home we were very limited to where he could go when he was well enough as he wasn’t allowed to go indoors anywhere where there were crowds and germs. We decided the Kelpies was ideal as it was outdoors, it wasn’t too far away from home, we could take him in his wheelchair to wheel him around easily and he would get to see them again whilst geting some fresh air at the same time” Allison explained.
Jak and his Mum ventured to The Kelpies once more on a crisp winter night “I remember it was dark with all the lights shining bright, it was beautiful”. Jealous to have missed out on the fun, Jak’s girlfriend joined them on another outing and Jak, Hannah and Allison enjoyed another night together with the Kelpies.
“It was around 2 weeks after that Jak went into hospital again for his transplant and we were told there was nothing else they could do”. That same evening, a limousine was booked and Jak’s family were taken to the Kelpies to spend a lovely evening together again as a family wandering around. “He always said that once he got better that was the place he wanted to go, so we thought, let’s do this!” explained Allison.
After Jak passed away in February 2015, Allison took part in the first ever Kelpies Supernova Run in aid of Bloodwise, a charity very close to her heart which she is an ambassador for after Jak raised an amazing £66,000 for them. “Last year we did Supernova for Team Jak and this year we’re back bigger than ever before but with Bloodwise very much close to our hearts as well”.
Jak always loved the outdoors and from a young boy he would be found out in the garden playing. As he grew older he played football regularly and he received his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. Reflecting on why Jak loved spending time at The Kelpies Allison explained “It was the fact it was new, it was a modern structure. He loved the lights and the fact the Kelpies changed colour and were novel and different. At the time when Jak took ill it just became somewhere really, really special for Jak and somewhere now whenever I’m there I feel really, really close to him and I get a lot of comfort from going there.”
When Jak learned of his condition he did an extraordinary thing. Instead of dwelling on his own situation he decided that he would be as positive as he could and try to help make a difference to others. During the last five months of his life Jak talked a lot about his hopes and dreams for the future: he wanted a brand new centre – Jak’s Den – to be created not only for young cancer patients and those with life-limiting illnesses and their families, but for any children and teenagers throughout Scotland that would help bring people together and give them a sense of purpose. He wanted somewhere they could go to relax and feel welcome in a safe and sterile environment and he wanted lots of support for siblings and friends.
Jak’s ultimate Big Jak’s Den hopes to include sports facilities, cafes in sports and music themes, rooms for music and drama workshops, outdoor tracks, footy goals and much more as requested by Jak himself.
In December 2015, only 8 months after Jak died, the first Jak’s Den (mark 1) opened it’s doors. Team Jak quickly discovered there was a real need for support and they couldn’t wait until they had generated the £3.3 million required for the ultimate den. The team found an office space within Geddes House in Livingston and created an inspirational space for children and families to visit.
Within Jak’s Den (Mark 1) there is a fantastic media zone, Kidszone, Activity Area and a beautiful counselling room. The team currently work with an increasing number of amazing inspirational families – some going through treatment, some in remission and sadly some Angel families. The team provide a number of services to families including Music Therapy, Drop-in sessions, Alternative Therapies, parties, structures sessions and much more.
Team Jak have now made plans to open Jak’s Den (Mark 2) in February next year and need to raise £180,000 to get the den up and running the way Jak hoped. Team Jak Foundations’ new facility remains in Livingston but with a much larger space within Ochil House and a fantastic outdoor area. Allison explained “Everything that’s in the den at the moment is going to be there again with lots of other new exciting things – Counseling Pod’s, a bigger multipurpose area and a Zen Garden where families can spend some time outside and reflect if they need to”.
Outside building works are scheduled to begin in December with inside works in the new year. Team Jak are looking for support to make Jak’s dream happen and move to a bigger and more suitable premises for the families who rely on their support whether it is a donation or local companies or individuals who can give up time, materials or resources.
‘It’s really exciting, it can’t come soon enough. We’ve outgrown the Den and there is a real need for the support for families in the local area. We have discovered that outwith medical services there was no social or emotional support available to families, it really is vital”.
Allison works tirelessly along with Team Jak’s amazing volunteers to make Jak’s vision a reality. “Jak’s Den (Mark 2) will have just about everything that Jak wanted within it which is going to be a phenomenal achievement in a matter of 3 years. Our families are really, really grateful for the support they have been given and it’s a real privilege to provide that for them”.
To support Team Jak in their fundrasing efforts for Jak’s Den (Mark 2) visit: https://mydonate.bt.com/events/jaksden180000/448588
To contact Team Jak about volunteering your services or donating materials email: [email protected]
For more information about Jak’s Journey and Team Jak Foundation’s services visit: www.teamjak.org.uk/