’21 Days for Jake’ honors memory of charitable boy
How do you honor the memory of a giving child?
In the case of Jake Pennar — who would have turned 10 years old on New Year’s Eve — it is by giving to other young patients at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, who might not have the kind of love and support, that he had during his battle with cancer.
“He was such a wonderful child. He touched so many people,” said Wendy Bacon, co-owner of the Whistle Stop Hobby and Toy Shop in St. Clair Shores and the drop-off site for Jake’s annual toy drive.
The first drive known as Jake’s Blessing Bags was started by Jake shortly after being diagnosed with cancer as a means of supporting other children. “It broke his heart to see kids at the hospital without their moms and dads,” said Jake’s mother Amy Pennar of Grosse Pointe Woods. “He would pray for them every day.”
He started the second drive on his birthday, Dec. 31, 2020, days before he died, Jan. 20, 2021. At the funeral, rather than flowers or monetary donations, family and friends brought toys for the drive in honor of the little boy’s generous spirit and compassion for others.
This year the family has decided to mark the anniversary of his first heaven day — as his mother calls it — with 21 days of sharing that start with a toy drive and include an activity every day that Jake loved to do, from smashing your face in a cake (which he did every year on his birthday) to learning more about Japan. “He was a little silly but he was also incredibly bright and very empathetic,” Amy said.
On the way home from the hospital one day Jake saw a homeless man and insisted the family stop the car so he could give him the candy that he snagged from the hospital.
That’s just one example of his giving heart and why the last activity on the calendar, found on Team Jake’s Facebook page calls for a random act of kindness.
“We have so many cool ways to honor Jake,” said Amy.
Also woven into ’21 Days of Jake’ is the annual toy drive going on through Jan. 20.
“Jake loved seeing all the toys accumulate and delivering them to the hospital,” said Amy. “These toys offer an escape during a difficult time.”
Those who wish to participate can purchase toys through the Amazon wish list or at the Whistle Stop, which was always a special place for Jake.
“In true Jake spirit, our goal is to ‘smash’ last year’s accomplishment of 2,121 donated toys,” said Amy, who was told by the hospital that it was the largest donation by a single donor.
“These toys are more than toys,” added Amy. “They are an opportunity for a child to transcend the hospital walls and enter a fantastic play world free of tubes, medicines and procedures.”