Schoolboys to run 5k in memory of football pal, 13, who died from brain tumour

Jack, left, with friends from school and team mates
Jack, left, with friends from school and team mates -Credit:Supplied

Two young Scots footballers are to run 5k in memory of their teammate who tragically died after a battle with cancer.

Gregor Hales, 14, and Daniel Phillips, 13, will put their best foot forward on May 25 in a touching tribute to their pal, Jack Lees, who passed away at the age of 13 on November 30, 2023. Jack, from East Calder in West Lothian, was just 11 when a tumour was discovered on his brain stem

The brave schoolboy, who was a talented footballer and who played for East Calder Football Club, underwent gruelling rounds of radiotherapy at the Sick Kids in Edinburgh but sadly died 20 months after his diagnosis.

Following the tragedy, his friends will take part in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival to raise funds for the Team Jak Foundation, which helped the boys process their grief following the death of their beloved pal.

Gregor's mum, Sheena, 53, told the Record: "It has been hard for the boys to process losing their best friend. The fundraiser and 5k is a good way for them to channel their grief.

Jack Lees, who was a talented young football player
Jack Lees, who was a talented young football player -Credit:Supplied

"They wanted to do something positive and support his family. Knowing that Jack is still remembered is really important for the boys and Jack's family. They recognise the honour of the challenge and they're excited - they want to do the best they can on the day."

Sheena said the boys - who went to primary school and high school together as well as playing on the same football team - were there to support Jack on his journey with the disease. The mum said the fundraiser will help the boys to keep Jack's memory alive.

She continued: "They were a close-knit friend group. The 5k is a way to show them they care and that they want to keep Jack's memory alive. They went through primary school and onto high school and they played in the same football team. They were there through his cancer journey until the very end.

"When Jack finished his first round of radiotherapy, the boys made a sign and held it up for him that said well done. They led his coffin from the church to the graveyard in their football kits. It was a very grown-up thing for them to do.

"Since then, they all still individually go to Jack's graveside. It is a peaceful place for them and I think it has kept them together as friends."

Daniel Phillips, left, and Gregor-Hales, right
Daniel Phillips, left, and Gregor-Hales, right -Credit:Supplied

The Team Jak Foundation was set up by 15-year-old Jak Trueman before he died from cancer in 2004. The charity, based in Livingston, offers support to young people with cancer, their families, friends and those bereaved throughout Scotland.

Sheena said: "When it was confirmed that Jack's diagnosis was terminal, the charity came into the school to support the children through counselling and coaching. It has really helped them to deal with their grief.

"The kids are encouraged to laugh and share stories that were fun about Jack. The boys wanted to give back to the charity that helped them, Jack and his family."

Jack has been remembered as being a "tenacious" football player with the "loudest laugh" and "brightest smile". Sheena added: "Jack had the loudest laugh and an amazingly bright smile. He was always so fun, he laughed inappropriately and he was so kind.

"He was very intelligent. On the pitch, he was tenacious and an observant player. He is missed dearly by all who knew him."

Commenting on the boys' efforts, Jack's dad, Gary, said: "Jack's mum and I are so proud of all Jack's friends who have helped raise funds during a very difficult time for them."

Donate to the boys' fundraiser here.

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