A teenager from Cambridge has climbed more than 19,000 feet to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, raising more than £15,500 in memory of his mum who died of a brain tumour.
Jake Long, 19, completed the climb with friends Ollie Turner and Louis Harhalakis, also 19. Together they raised more than £15,500 for Tom’s Trust, a Cambridge-based children’s brain tumour charity.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, standing at 19,340ft, and thought to be the fourth highest mountain in the world, but despite the mammoth challenge, the team completed the climb in just one week.
Jake, who is from Cambridge, said:
“On Friday 1st September Ollie, Louis and I made it back to England after a successful summit of Kilimanjaro. It took us seven nights to reach Uhuru Peak at 19,340 ft, and one more day to descend back down to Arusha town. The whole experience was amazing; we were beautifully looked after by our guides and porters who made the climb as easy as possible.
“Despite concerns about the high altitude, when we made it to camp each day we still had the energy to play mountainside cricket with the porters, who even fashioned a bat for us out of nearby bracken. We were woken at 1:00 AM on the morning of our ascent, and after a small bowl of porridge, we started what should have been a seven-hour hike to the top. But even though our guide tried to make us go ‘pole-pole’ (slowly), we managed to reach the summit only four hours and forty minutes later – just in time for sunrise.
“It was an emotional and cathartic experience, one that helped connect me with Mum despite the fact I was as far away from family as I’ve ever been! It was an honour to complete the trek in her name, as well as in support of Tom’s Trust – for whom we have now raised £15,500 and counting! The challenge rounds off an amazing gap year, and as we now look to university, we would like to thank everyone who supported us in what has been such an important year for me and my family.”
Jake’s mum Katy, who was a teacher at 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.
“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 our sitting room as it was during the pandemic, so she was listening in and part of the 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. I wanted to fundraise for a charity I knew my mum loved. I was determined to do some fundraising and I know she’d think this was a really positive way to go about it.”
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 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 are in awe of Jake, Ollie and Louis for completing such a tough challenge for us and simply want to say a huge, huge thank you.”