A teenager from Cambridge is to climb more than 18,000 feet to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for charity in memory of his mum who died of a brain tumour.
Jake Long, 19, will set off on his climb, which he estimates will take around one week, with his friends Ollie Turner and Louis Harhalakis, also 19.
Jake has already raised more than £13,000 for the children’s brain tumour charity Tom’s Trust, which he’s done in memory of his mum Katy, who died of a brain tumour last year.
As the tallest mountain in Africa, standing at 19,340ft, and thought to be the fourth highest mountain in the world, Jake has been training for the climb by going to the gym five times a week and trekking in South America at high altitudes while travelling on a gap year.
Jake, who is from Cambridge, said: “I’m very nervous, but also really excited to get going and I’ve bought all my gear, so I’m set to go. We’ll be going right to the summit at Stella Point, which is at 18,885 feet. We’ll be wearing our Tom’s Trust vests at the top. My mum died just as I finished my A Levels, so I wanted to fundraise for a charity I knew she loved. I was determined to do some fundraising and I know she’d think this was a really positive way to go about it.”
Katy, who was a teacher at the The Stephen Pearse Foundation school in Cambridge, was diagnosed with a gliosarcoma at the start of August 2020 and was given just 18 months to live.
Jake was 18 and at The Leys School in Cambridge, along with his brother Harry, who was just 16 and had just finished his GCSEs, when Katy died on 11th July 2022.
She was able to hear that Jake had got into Oxford University before she died, where he will be studying Law from October.
Jake said: “Her prognosis was awful. She lasted longer than predicted but she wanted to make it to the end of our exams. The day I finished my last A Level, she was all there but couldn’t communicate. We celebrated and two or three weeks later she passed. She felt complete. Luckily the Oxford offer she knew about, I was doing interviews in the sitting room as it was during the pandemic, so she was listening in and part of whole process, which was lovely.
“Knowing how hard I’ll have to work once I’m at university meant I really wanted to make the most of this year and that’s why I was desperate to do this. My grandma used to run holidays in and out of Africa, and in around 1999 she took her kids to the equator. My uncle climbed Kilimanjaro a while ago too, so it runs in the family. My mum adored it, and we’ve flown over it many times so it was always something I wanted to do.”
Jake and his brother both went to St Faith’s School in Cambridge before going to The Leys, which is where Tom Whiteley, who Tom’s Trust is named after, went to before he died from a brain tumour at the age of nine in 2010. His parents set up the charity in his name.
Jake said: “I was always aware of Tom’s Trust. Tom was in a different year group to me, so I didn’t directly know him, but the whole school was affected when he died and I was always very aware of the charity being set up. Tom’s sister Evie was the year below me at secondary school and I know her pretty well, and my mum knew of her, so it all feels interconnected. I tried to raise awareness while fundraising, for instance speaking to the school during our final assembly.”
While Ollie is also going to university, Louis is joining the Marines. The pair have been integral in Jake’s fundraising, with Ollie running a social media account dedicated to raising the money for Tom’s Trust.
Debs Mitchell, Tom’s mum and Co-Founder of Tom’s Trust, said: “Celebrating Katy’s life in such an incredible way is not only important but incredibly brave. We can’t thank Jake, Ollie and Louis enough for all their incredible fundraising for Tom’s Trust. We are in awe of them taking on such a challenge for us and wish them the very best of luck in climbing Kilimanjaro.”