In memory of Jacob McConahay: November 10, 2003 - August 31, 2011
Jake McConahay of Westfield was just 7 years old when he lost a brave battle with a rare cancer. But if you need evidence of how big this little boy’s heart was, you can still find it, cuddled in the arms of hundreds of thousands of children across the globe.
Jake began treatment at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in October of 2010 for alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that attacks the soft tissue and organs. During his visits, he found comfort in a dinosaur Pillow Pet named Rexi.
“I asked him simply, ‘What do you think kids need at Riley that they don’t get at Riley?’” says Jacob’s mother, Tosha McConahay. “He thought about it for a while, and he perked up and said, ‘I want to collect 1,000 pillow pets for kids at Riley. Because sometimes kids need something to cuddle with when they are going through tough stuff.’”
Jake’s school climbed on board. The McConahays’ church got involved. Then local media reported on Jake’s collection efforts. Pillow Pets began popping up everywhere. Jake’s goal of 1,000 was left in the dust.
“Then his next goal was 1 million,” Tosha says. “He told us that he wanted very hurting child to have a Pillow Pet across the world.”
Jake was also sensitive to the needs of patients’ siblings, like his own sister, Gracie, and brother, Jonathan. “Siblings get left out a lot,” says Tosha. “It was important to us that if a sibling was there that day they could have one. You could see them in the hallway after receiving one and they would be so excited.”
Over the summer Jake’s battle with cancer took a diffi cult turn. “One night he was laying down and he made me pinky promise that we would keep his Pillow Pets going,” Tosha shared. “It was so important to him.”
Jake’s pinky promise has been kept. Pillow Pets continue to brighten the hospital beds of children as far away as South Africa. Tosha has lost track of how many thousands have been donated, but she’s guessing close to 250,000. “He left a legacy at the age of 7 most of us won’t in our whole lifetime.”