Jake Billings: Interview about his friend Luke and The Big Love Fund
Solving Kids' Cancer UK had the privilege of interviewing one of our very special supporters, Jake.
Jake was a very close friend of Luke Wiltshire. Luke was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was 14 years old and in 2021, Luke and his family received the devastating news that there were no more curative options for him. Luke sadly passed away in 2021 at the age of 23. Jake has taken part in many incredible challenges to raise funds and awareness for the charity, in memory of Luke.
Below he talks about his memories of Luke, why he is so involved, and The Big Love Fund. The Big Love Fund has been inspired by Luke's legacy to help us reach and provide support, via a grant, to more families of children and young people affected by neuroblastoma. The fund is available to families across the UK and Ireland. You can find out more about The Big Love Fund and how to get involved, or apply for a grant, here.
Can you tell us what inspired you to support Solving Kids’ Cancer UK?
I’m fundraising for Solving Kids’ Cancer UK because the charity has done a lot to help my good friend Luke, who passed away in November 2021. I think that it’s important, in his memory, to keep it going and to make sure that the charity receives as much support as it can. They went above and beyond for Luke, and they go above and beyond for many other children who are suffering with cancer. This is why I want to do as much as I can with them – not just to raise awareness for their cause, but also to raise as much money for the charity as we can.
You say that the charity provided a lot of help to Luke’s family during a very difficult time. What was your experience with that?
I found out about Luke when I was 14, in Year 9. Luke and I had been spending quite a bit of time together in the weeks prior because we were in the same lessons for some time. During our lunch breaks we would just camp out and chat. You know – just sit outside and talk about different things. I noticed he hadn’t been in for a while and then I got called into the office by our Head of Year. She told me certain details – she didn’t tell me the full extent, but then I obviously found out later the full extent and that it was cancer. Of course, it was very difficult and over those years we tried to do as much as we could – spend as much time with him and doing things that he wanted to do.
So, you know, it was tough. You didn’t know what to expect with treatment and how it would end. It was a tough time but I’m going to look at it as: I spent a lot of good time with him and we did a lot of great things. He took me to his Make a Wish to go and meet Jay from Inbetweeners. It was a lot more personal – the time – and I think it was important to have that at the time.
As you know, we’ve now launched The Big Love Fund. How do you feel about this as a way to honour and remember Luke?
I think it’s amazing because that is what he lived by. You can’t really say that he was like anyone else because he wasn’t at all. He was very much his own person and he lived by that always, even considering what he had been through, and what his family had been through. You know – his stepdad at the time had just passed away, his mum’s mum had just passed away – he had so much going on around him plus his own battle. I can’t personally imagine how anyone could stay strong through that myself. I don’t know if I can speak for everyone but that probably would have broken me at some point.
The fact that he could keep up with his morals until the day that he passed was just ridiculous. The fact that this is now living on as its own entity within Solving Kids’ Cancer is amazing.
Can you please tell us – for people who may not know – about the sort of challenges you’ve chosen to undertake and why you’ve chosen to do these things?
Since December 2021 I’ve been taking part in one challenge per month for the year. They’ve all been physical challenges. Our first challenge was the 24 hours in the gym which blew up and was absolutely incredible. My background has always been fitness, which is why I picked this area, but at the same time I tried to pick challenges that were well outside of my comfort zone because I want to be able to push myself as much as I can to do the best I can. This is a challenge and I want to be able to challenge myself every time I pick something.
How do you feel supporting the charity in such a big way? You’ve become such a valued supporter: how does it make you feel to know that you’re making a real difference?
It feels great but at the same time I don’t really think about it on that side. My main goal is to make sure that everyone knows the work the charity does and to keep it alive and to keep Luke’s name alive. It is raising awareness and raising the money and helping in such a way is a bonus to me. This whole challenge is not about me or what I’m doing. It’s about what the charity is doing to help all of these other people.
You’ve been very active on social media in terms of raising the profile of the charity and promoting our work. How have you found that?
100% it has made everyone within the circle of people who knew Luke very aware if they weren’t already. It’s raising that platform for a very close and special charity. It has been great to work with them and at the same time it’s been great the support that they’ve given me. There’s a lot of personal touch that goes into the work of this charity. There’s so much personalisation and support that goes on from your side as well. With everyone that works within the charity that I’ve met or spoken to, or been lucky enough to work with, you know it means a lot to them. It make it so much easier to be able to promote them and make sure that everyone knows about the work they’re doing.
As you know The Big Love Fund has officially launched. Do you have a message for anyone who may want to get involved in memory of Luke?
If you’re looking to get involved. . . why wait really? That’s what I would say. Unfortunately, Luke only got 23 years of his life. He had a bucket list and some of those things he got to do and some, unfortunately, he didn’t. He’s a very prime example of how quickly things can get taken away from you. It’s not just about getting involved in the charity. It’s about doing anything you want in life. I remember speaking at his wake speaking about doing these challenges and it just started with the gym lock in and from there has evolved into all this other stuff. I’ve now done all these challenges that I never would have thought of doing like RideLondon and Tough Mudder. I’ve always thought about them but have never put my foot forward to do it. My message would be if you want to get involved, make a difference and help this charity then why wait. Do what you can. It doesn’t matter how small or how big. As long as you do it and you get involved, that’s the main thing. If you want to get involved and make a difference, take the plunge and do it.