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Jacob’s Squad walking to raise funds for RMHC in memory of Albany 11-year-old who battled neuroblastoma

Stuart McGuckinAlbany Advertiser
Breanna Wright and Luke Wills with son Jacob.
Camera IconBreanna Wright and Luke Wills with son Jacob. Credit: Laurie Benson

Albany’s Luke Wills will be lacing up his walking shoes for a good cause again next month when he takes part in Up All Night for a second time.

The event brings walkers together for an overnight marathon to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

The cause is one close to Mr Wills’ heart having received a lot of support from RMHC during his son Jacob’s 12-month battle against neuroblastoma.

After being diagnosed in 2022, Jacob required treatment in Perth.

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It meant Mr Wills and his fiance Breanna Wright faced the difficult decision of possibly moving from Albany to Perth to support Jacob during his treatment.

Mr Wills said RMHC provided accommodation for him and his son for more than 12 months, allowing him to be Jacob’s primary caregiver while Breanna remained in Albany working.

“It was a relatively simple, yet extremely emotional, decision that I would stay with him in Perth and Breanna would stay and work in Albany to keep our house and we would re-evaluate if things needed to change as we went along,” he said.

“Having RMH, meant that I could focus primarily on caring for Jacob, Breanna could focus primarily on working and paying the bills, and we would meet somewhere in the middle every day on the phone.

“Breanna was able to come and go from RMH on weekends and school holidays, which means we squeezed in as much family time as possible.”

Breanna Wright and Luke Wills.
Camera IconBreanna Wright and Luke Wills. Credit: Laurie Benson

The 11-year-old died in June last year, but Mr Wills will carry on his son’s legacy at the Up All Night walk this year where he and his supporters will make up Jacob’s squad.

“I cannot thank the team members enough, their fundraising efforts, the sharing and posting Jacob’s story, also putting themselves out there physically means so much to me,” Mr Wills said.

“Jacob would be absolutely over the moon that all this support was for him, he loved the spotlight.

“He was incredibly loved and this support really shows it.”

So far the 10 members of Jacob’s Squad have collectively just under $17,000 with a little over a month to the walk, the second most of any team taking part in the WA event.

Mr Wills has raised more than $4000 of that individually, adding to the $7000 he raised when he did the walk for the first time.

“Honestly, when I had the idea to start Jacob’s Squad, I thought I might get two maybe three people onboard the team and we might be lucky to raise $10k,” he said.

“So the fact that we have 10 walkers and have raised over $16k so far, in Jacob’s words, is just mind-blowing.”

Luke and Jacob Wills before Luke's first Up All Night walk in 2022.
Camera IconLuke and Jacob Wills before Luke's first Up All Night walk in 2022. Credit: Supplied

The Perth walk will take place overnight from February 24 to 25.

It will see walkers complete a circuit, making several stops along the way through various inner-metropolitan suburbs.

Mr Wills said he did not think he was as fit heading into this year’s walk as he was for the previous event as he had been doing a lot of running during Jacob’s treatment for his mental health.

“But the experience I gained from the first one will definitely make it easier on me,” he said.

“I will definitely be ready for the night, and if not as physically ready, I will have my other team members, the atmosphere and the thought of all the amazing support to push me through.”

He is aiming to complete the 42km in about 10 hours, having done it in 8hrs 46 minutes last time.

Mr Wills said the support from RMHC had been “indescribable” and that it was “hard to put into words just how grateful” he was for the comfort they were able to provide his family during a difficult time.

“Before Jacob’s diagnosis, I had heard of RMH and I knew that they provided accommodation for children and their families in Perth but I really hadn’t put any more thought into it at all other than knowing its existence,” he said.

“I really had no idea the extent of the support and the impact it would have.”

You can support the fundraising efforts of Mr Wills and Jacob’s Squad by donating online.

Mr Wills has also pledged to back up his effort at the Perth walk a fortnight later in Busselton if Jacob’s Squad is able to raise $30,000.

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