How South Shields youngster Jak Fada's legacy will live on this Christmas
Much-missed South Shields schoolboy Jak Fada is set to spread happiness across the borough this Christmas.
Family members have been left ‘overwhelmed’ by the response to a toy appeal set up in memory of the 10-year-old, who died on November 6.
Dozens of toys and almost £2,000 were donated by members of the public, with a number of charities now set to benefit.
The gifts will go towards disadvantaged children in South Tyneside this Christmas.
Jak, from Westoe, suffered a ruptured heart artery, just hours after complaining of chest pains.
His loss devastated his family, who were already coming to terms with the death of his grandad, James Tomlin, a day earlier.
The family was hit by another devastating blow when Jak’s mum, Ashley Tomlin, died last Monday, also from a ruptured heart artery.
Despite their anguish, the family pressed ahead with the toy appeal in a bid to bring smiles to the faces of youngsters this Christmas.
Among the main organisers of the appeal were Jak’s dad, Tony, and grandmother, Julie Bright. Ashley had also been fully behind it when she was alive.
Julie, 50, said: “The response we have had has been amazing and we can’t thank people enough for their support.
“We just wanted to harness the goodwill there was towards Jak to help other people.
“We thought that if we could get donations of presents for children who needed them, Jak could be celebrated at Christmas as well.
“He’s still in everyone’s thoughts and will bring a bit of happiness to other people now, the same way he did to us.
“None of us are prepared to let his memory go and he will always be with us.”
Jak was a keen football player, and a huge fan of South Shields Football Club.
He regularly took part in the Mariners’ holiday coaching courses with players Barrie Smith and Carl Finnigan, as well as the club’s weekly development centre at Mariners Park.
His funeral service and wake were held at the ground, which is also where the toy appeal was kicked off.
At the first home match since Jak’s death, against Droylsden on November 18, supporters donated a total of £1,000 in memory of the youngster.
Ahead of the match, there was also a minute’s applause in honour of Jak as fans of both clubs paid their respects for the Westoe Crown Primary School pupil.
Since then, other collections have been held to boost that figure, including a ‘wrap for Jak’ at Buzzers Sports Bar, in South Shields, on Saturday.
Many of the toys donated in Jak’s honour were wrapped on the day, which also helped to raise more than £600.
Julie added: “It has been overwhelming.
“We’ve had total strangers coming up to us donating toys, and helping us out in any way they can.
“We ended up with 63 bags full of presents, which we were amazed by, and we’re happy to see that Jak’s face is still everywhere.
“He was a happy boy who was always smiling, and that’s how we’ll always remember him.”
Along with the toys, the family has sent a message to those who will receive the gifts this Christmas, some of which will be distributed by South Tyneside Council’s children’s services team.
The message says: “Jak is our son, grandson, nephew, cousin and to many at school, football training and football clubs, a friend.
“He was 10 years old going on 27 when we lost him from our lives.
“As his family, we want Jak to be remembered this Christmas in the smiles and happiness these gifts will bring your families.
“So when you open your gifts this Christmas, we hope he can make you smile the way he always did with everyone he met.
“All our love and good wishes, Jak’s family xxx.”