Throughout his short life, Jake of Chatham, Ill. was known for his sense of humor and his unwavering loyalty to his friends. According to his mother, Barbara, Jake was always the first person to jump in whenever anyone needed help.
After a car accident claimed the life of her 18-year-old son, Barbara was asked if she would consent to donating Jake’s corneas and skin to help others. In the midst of a devastating tragedy, Jake’s parents made a compassionate decision from their hearts, just as Jake would have, and agreed to donate.
“I thought something good should come from a tragedy,” she said. “We had never talked about organ donation – I mean, you never expect your 18 year old to die – but I knew donation is something he would want.”
Jake had just graduated Williamsville High School with honors before his accident. During his high school career, he was an Illinois State Scholar and a member of the National Honor Society. In addition, Jake, a talented bass player, also incorporated his love of the arts into his school activities. He was king of his madrigals group and performed in school musicals, including his favorite role as of Horrors. An active member in the school’s vocal music department, Jake even sang for President Obama in 2009 as part of his school’s vocal jazz choir.
However, Jake’s greatest love was film. Remarked Barbara, “He loved movies and knew more about movie trivia than anyone I’ve ever met.” In fact, Jake had a full academic scholarship to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to study filmmaking in order to prepare for a career as a director.
While Jake’s dreams were cut short, his kindness for others continues to live on – both through the lives of the hundreds of people he touched in his 18 years and through the eyes of a cornea recipient in California who can now see thanks to Jake’s family’s generous gift.