'A beautiful legacy': Jacob's Wish raises thousands for sick kids

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'A beautiful legacy': Jacob's Wish raises thousands for sick kids

Jacob McInnis's wish was for everyone to be happy.

The chronically ill 14-year-old from Sherwood Park spent nearly 80 per cent of his life at the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton.

When McInnis died in May 2015, his mother Soula Milonas said she promised to make his wish come true.

"Jacob never took anything for granted. Every day he made it beautiful," Milonas said.

"He just always wanted other people to be happy."

Milonas launched a charity hockey marathon in honour of her son, aiming to raise $10,000 for the Stollery during a 12-hour game on March 4.

She hit her fundraising goal by noon that day.

Dozens of players braved heavy snowfall at an outdoor rink near Sherwood Park, playing from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

McInnis suffered meningitis encephalitis and couldn't play hockey because he used a wheelchair. But his uncle, Angelo Milonas, said he still loved the game. The Edmonton Oilers were his favourite.

"He would have been pretty proud," Milonas said. "I'm sure he's watching us right now, feeling pretty good and helping us keep our feet warm."

Indoors, Soulas sold comics and t-shirts that featured 'Super Jake' — a tribute to her son, who weathered nearly 100 surgeries in his life.

"Everyone called him that," she said. "He fought through smiling."

Money will go to Jacob's Wish Foundation, which supports sick children and their families with random acts of kindness. Donations pay for gestures as simple as a coffee for tired parents, and as grandiose as iPads for children who can't leave their beds. 

"Living in the hospital with Jacob, it's a different world," Milonas said about the 14 years she spent at the Stollery with her son.

"It's hard, it's scary ... so any little thing that was done stayed in my heart forever."

Milonas also wants to buy sensory lights for children's hospital rooms. Her son became sensitive to light after numerous surgeries on his skull and spine, she explained. Color-changing lamps helped him relax and sleep.

"They help the kids, to calm them at night," Milonas said.

After Saturday's fundraising success, Milonas said she plans to host a charity hockey marathon annually in honour of her son's last wish. 

"Losing a child is probably the worst thing that could ever happen to somebody — you feel broken and you feel lost," Milonas said.

"Jacob chose to always find the good and so I felt I needed to do the same thing and carry his legacy and keep his wish going," she added. 

"Having your heart broken with the loss of a child, this almost puts glue and holds you together.

"It's a beautiful legacy."