When his family called to let CJ Products, the maker of Pillow Pets, know of young Jake McConahay’s passing, they learned that 140,000 of the plush animals had been donated in his name.
“You know how that started, right?” grandfather Dave McConahay said. “With just a simple question.”
The 7-year-old Indiana boy captured the hearts of employees at when he as part of his dying wish. He passed away on Aug. 31 after a long battle with a rare and aggressive cancer called Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma.
The Bayshore Boulevard resort is holding a sunset candlelight vigil and memorial dedication for him, while his grandparents are in town. It is set for Friday (Nov. 18) at 5 p.m.
Pillow Pets donations are welcome.
“It’s amazing how something so simple can really calm a child and put a smile on their face,” Jake’s grandmother, Lynn McConahay said, with tears filling her eyes.
Early in Jake’s diagnosis, his mother Tosha asked him what would help make other kids like him feel better. He told her, Pillow Pets
“Doctors don’t always tell them good news and they don’t always want to play, and sometimes they just want to snuggle,” his mother .
The family had a plaque made with some of Jake’s favorite catch phrases, such as “Hey guys, guess what?” It will be installed at Friday’s vigil on a pier outside Beso Del Sol, along with a small statuette the family gave to the resort during Jake's final trip in August. It is of a small boy fishing (something Dave wishes he could have done once more with Jake; but then again, he would always wish for one more time).
“I think he touched a lot of lives and we just don’t even know,” Dave said.
Dave and Lynn shared memories of Jake's time in Dunedin, like when the invited him to throw out the first pitch.
“They even made him a uniform,” Dave said. He got to hang out with the team in the locker room, where there is a TV, and they let Jake hold the remote. “The whole team was watching Sponge Bob and iCarly,” Dave said with a chuckle.
Ironically, when he was a toddler, he was terrified of D-Jay, the team mascot, Dave said.
His grandfather said the whole family was by his side when he passed. The room was so crowded, though, it didn't seem Jake would let go. "He kept taking a breath," he said, until some people stepped outside the door, to allow his soul room to pass. "That's the only thing I can think of."
Dave and Lynn said they delivered 100 Pillow Pets to Riley Children's Hospital, where Jake received treatments, on Nov. 10, what would have been his 8th birthday.
Jake's original goal was to raise 1,000 Pillow Pets for other children. He was alive to see that goal dwarfed with 8,000 donations in April.
“Once he reached it, he said, ‘My new goal is millions. Millions. We’ll make it’,” Lynn said.
“He’s almost got a quarter,” Dave said.
Editor's note: Jake's mother Tosha keeps an ongoing online journal where she chronicled her journey beginning with diagnosis through her son's passing and into her grieving. It has received more than 111,000 visits since Nov. 17, 2010.