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 and SKFF 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 chill with their friends in a clean and safe environment.
Jak’s life was filled with love. He had so much of it to give and was so loved in return. His happiest moments were spent in the company of his family and friends – his big sister Aimie, Granma, Grandad,Grandma Maisie, GG, uncles, aunts and cousins along with his girlfriend Hannah.
Friendship was really important to Jak and he made time for all of those people in his life he cared for whether it was at the footy, in the band or at church. His best friends Ben and Adam were very special to him as were his other close friends such as David, Scott, Cammie, Rory and Tim.
He also enjoyed spending time with his three-half siblings to his dad and had a particular bond with his half-brother Logan. I would love to name everyone young and old who was a friend to Jak but I would need another few pages to do that so if your name is not mentioned here I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you for being a part of Jak’s life.
Jak’s relationship with Aimie was probably typical of the way most brothers and sisters grow up together in that Jak would often fulfil his role of the annoying little brother to perfection.
However, when the going got tough the two of them would always stick by each other and they would join forces to play tricks, crack jokes and get up to general mischief. Towards the end of Jak’s life it was really clear that the two of them had always had a very close bond and I’ll forever be grateful for that.
Family holidays and trips were a big part of Jak’s life. He was an active lad who loved having lots to do and the people around him to do them with.
Swimming, go-Karting, quad-biking, bowling and football were just some of the things he enjoyed taking part in. Jak was always happy to give anything a go but never wanted to be the centre of attention, instead being happy to leave that up to others. He also relished the opportunity to spend time with his relatives – especially the birthday meals at Granma and Grandad’s with the banter around the table being the highlight of the visit. His crazy uncles would tease Jak and Aimie with pet names – when they were wee it was cheeky monkey, then Pongo One and Pongo Two – the names becoming more unmentionable as the years went by.
As a wee boy Jak would have friends round to play or he would visit their homes. Often I would just find him in our garden bouncing on the trampoline or scoring a few goals into his football net. Football became really important to Jak and at the age of three he started mini-soccer. When he turned six Jak joined the club which would be his for the next nine years – Mid Calder Colts. He had an obsession with buying football boots, goalie gloves and footballs and I can’t bear to part with the huge tub of balls in my back garden even now.
Jak’s sporting talent wasn’t restricted to football. When he started swimming lessons he learned pretty quickly and went on to shine by representing his primary school. Jak also excelled in other sports including cross-country running and handball and represented his primary school in both.
He then went on to represent his secondary school in athletics and continued his passion for football by playing both for his high school and at county level. As a youngster he attended Anchor Boys, Beavers then Cubs and Scouts but his favourite activities without a doubt were football and playing the tuba in his school band. His favourite time of the year in fact was when he went to band camp.
Thankfully for all of us Jak was fit and healthy almost until the point of his hospital admission. When Jak woke from his coma he wanted to blog about his experiences and you can read about them on his Facebook page – Jak’s Journey
Jak completed his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award and was presented with it along with the Kerry Macgregor Memorial Award for overcoming adversity two days before he died which he was very proud of.
Jak then went on to posthumously win a number of National Awards for his bravery and determination to help others.These include- Young Hero and Young Scot 2015, Edinburgh Evening News Local Hero 2015, Forth One Local Hero Award 2015, The Broons Child of Courage Award 2016 and The Broons Family of the Year Award 2016.
Jak was and always will be our hero.
As soon as he learned of his condition Jak 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 for 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 other life-limiting illnesses and their families, but for any children and teenagers from throughout Scotland that would help bring people together and give them a sense of purpose. He wanted somewhere they could all 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 Jaks 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 its doors. We very quickly discovered after Jak died that there was a real need for support and help and that we couldn’t wait to do this until we had the £3.3million required for the ultimate Den. So we found an Office space within Geddes House, Livingston and our amazing architect, Robert Collin from CUBE, created an inspirational space for our children and families to visit.
Within Jak’s Den Mark 1 we have a fantastic Media Zone, Kidzone, Activity Area and beautiful counselling room. We are currently working with an increasing number of amazing inspirational families- some going through treatment, some in remission and sadly some Angel families.
We have already been able to provide a number of activities for our families including Music Therapy, Drop-In Sessions, Alternative Therapies, parties, structured sessions and much more and we are about to hold our first support group for bereaved siblings and friends of teenagers and families, as Jak was aware of a gap at this age for Aimie and Hannah.
We are now making plans to purchase slightly bigger and more suitable premises, and also branch out to other areas of the country with stellite Jak’s Dens in Aberdeen and Glenrothes.
Team Jak Foundation was formed to help make Jak’s Den a reality and is now helping many children young people and families throughout Scotland by providing much needed emotional, social and practical support as recognised by Jak himself. I know he would be so proud.