The legacy of toddler Jacob Jenkins who captured the hearts of the people of Hartlepool still lives on a year after he died after choking on a grape.
Tributes were set to be paid today as staff and youngsters from Jacob’s nursery were set to to remember the toddler and lay flowers and release balloons.
The youngster’s desperate battle for life brought thousands together to pray for the youngster and people were united in grief following the little fighter’s tragic death.
Well-wishers kgathered on the beach at Seaton Carew on the evening of October 14 last year to release balloons in a seafront vigil of hope.
But as yellow balloons soared into the night sky in what has been described as a “magical moment”, the two-year-old gained his angel wings after his parents Abigail Wilson and David Jenkins took the heartbreaking decision to turn off his life support machine.
A string of fundraising and awareness raising events were also held in the town as people pulled together.
“Jacob has shown how we can as a town all pull together in times of need for one of our own - and that strong bond he created within our community is his lasting legacy.”Stephen Picton
Today, on the first anniversary of Jacob’s death community champion Stephen Picton, who made the balloon release possible and helped arrange for a bench to be created as a lasting tribute, has told how Jacob’s memory will live on in the legacy he has left behind.
Mr Picton said: “Jacob has shown how we can as a town all pull together in times of need for one of our own - and that strong bond he created within our community is his lasting legacy.”
People in the town have taken on the causes of several youngsters in recent months including young Bradley Lowery who is battling neuroblastoma and Lyla
Jacob was taken to the hearts of the people of Hartlepool and throughout the world after what should have been a happy family meal at the town’s Pizza Hut turned to tragedy when a grape he was eating became lodged in his throat.
Despite his parents both being first aid trained they, alongside other first aiders were unable to free the piece of fruit and eventually his heart stopped beating.
Paramedics who arrived were able to dislodge the grape and as Jacob was taken to the James Cook University Hospital where medics were able to re-start his heart.
He was transferred to Newcastle’s RVI and placed on a life support machine while his parents kept a bedside vigil.
However, on the morning of October 14, they were given the devastating news Jacob would not pull through after scans showed swelling on his brain was not subsiding.
The couple chose 7pm that night in which to turn off his life support machine knowing the people of Hartlepool had him in their thoughts as they released balloons in a symbol of hope the youngster would recover.
Mr Picton added: “When we did the balloon release last year, it was so magical.
“We had all come together to set off the balloons as a symbol of hope as we were all praying for Jacob to pull through. None of us knew at that point he had already gained his angel wings.
“I had been asked if we would be doing another balloon release but what happened that night, the emotion and hope people had, it is something that won’t ever be able to be re-created again.
“That is why Jacob’s bench is there to remember him.
“Hartlepool has always been good at coming together but the way in which Jacob brought everyone together was something completely different. It was a closeness we had never had before.
“Jacob brought a whole town together in a time of hope but also a time of sadness.”
Youngsters at Scallywags Nursery where Jacob attended from the age of six months to the week before he died will be paying their own tribute to the youngster whose cheeky smile would light up their room on a daily basis.
Doors to the nursery will be closed early today as toddlers along with staff, wearing his favourite colour - yellow, will make their way to the seafront where they will lay flowers and release balloons in his memory.
Natalie Frankland, manager at Scallywags Nursery where Jacob attended, said: “It has been difficult as a lot of the girls at the nursery were close to Jacob’s family, we have been providing support for the past 12 months and to let them know his memory is still alive.
“Six months ago we created a memorial wall with Jacob’s picture, we also had a bench donated by one of our parents with a plaque which was a lovely idea and we also planted a tree in Jacob’s memory.
“At the time my daughter was around the same age as Jacob and it really hit home the tragic circumstances.
“Jacob was with us from the age of six months old right up until the week it happened. It has been really difficult for the girls here as we all thought so much of Jacob.”