Jak was a happy healthy teenager, who enjoyed playing in goal with his local and county school football team, and playing tuba in his school band. Until August 2014, when he was taken suddenly and seriously ill.
Devastatingly, Jak was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer: Gamma Delta T-Cell Lymphoma.
Five months later, Jak gained his wings.
Building a lasting legacy
Jak’s Mum and CEO of Jak’s Den in Scotland, said: “Throughout his illness, Jak demonstrated a remarkable strength and positivity and showed extraordinary courage and selflessness. He raised nearly £100,000 for various cancer charities and his desire to create a positive legacy grew.
“Six days before he died, Jak unveiled plans to support other young people walking the same journey.
“He called his charity Team Jak and charged his Mum, Allison, with the job of building it and creating Jak’s Den – a purpose-built facility where young cancer patients and those with related illnesses, and their families and friends, could go to escape from the traumas of treatment and have fun in a clean and safe environment.
Making Jak’s dream a reality
Five years on, Jak’s Den is thriving and offers emotional, social and practical support to hundreds of children and young people age 0-25 with cancer and related illnesses from all over Scotland.
The children and young people they support, and their families and friends, can come to Jak’s Den during opening hours, or by appointment at any other time.
They have drop-in sessions, music therapy, counselling, pamper days, alternative therapies, activity days including cake decorating, puppet making, magic shows, teen days (including Xbox and PS4 challenges) arts and crafts, coffee mornings, bespoke support groups for all, homework support and much more.
They also provide outreach services to homes and hospitals for children and families unable to visit a Den.
Much needed time out
As part of the development of Jak’s Den, Wooden Spoon Scotland funded a pamper pod and neutropenic café at Jak’s Den.
The pamper pod is available for children and their families to receive beauty treatments and massage whilst they are visiting Jak’s Den.
Islay, 4, and her family have been coming to Jak’s Den for the last two years, when Islay was first diagnosed with leukaemia.
Islay’s Mum, Fiona says: “It is so isolating being on the cancer journey with a child. You can’t take them anywhere in case they catch any germs and the siblings also become really affected. Jak’s Den was the only place, I felt I could come and we could all relax.
“Here I can leave Islay to have her nails done with one of the staff whilst I spend some time with her brother, Louie, 7, or in fact just have a cup of tea and a good natter with another Mum going through a similar situation.”
Time together as a family
One of Jak’s big wishes was to create a neutrogenic café so families could enjoy tasty meals together.
Jak’s Mum and CEO of Jak’s Den, Allison Barr said: “When a child or young person is undergoing cancer treatment, where and what they eat, can be so restrictive. Everything needs to be cooked from scratch and there are so many things out of bounds.
“Jak just wanted to have a Chinese or McDonalds, like any other teenager but there was nowhere we could go to get that. At our neutrogenic café, funded by Wooden Spoon Scotland, we can provide a variety of home cooked meals for all the family to eat together. This year, we will be doing our first ever Christmas lunch.”