After the tragic loss of his sister Alana, Cromer’s Jake de Kort is keeping her memory alive through his work with charity.
The family’s journey with cancer began in October 2017, when Alana was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer that typically affects children and teenagers.
Following an immensely brave ten-month fight against the disease, involving surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Alana sadly lost her battle in July 2018, aged just 14.
When she passed away, the family searched for a meaningful way to honour her memory.
“We were looking for something that celebrated the time Alana had, rather than a traditional funeral,” Jake tells Peninsula Living.
“We decided to do a celebration of her life, so we could remember all the good times we had together. It was a great day - we invited all of her friends, who were able to share their memories of Alana, as well.”
At the end of the day, a blue glass bottle filled with messages from everyone who loved Alana was thrown into the water at Long Reef.
“We didn’t think anything would eventuate from it,” Jake says about tossing the blue bottle.
“But it washed up in Queensland and was found, can you believe it, by a woman whose middle name is Alana.
“She then got in touch, and our families have visited each other. We’ve since become quite close.”
The bottle’s journey inspired the family to establish the Blue Bottle project, which raises awareness and funds for The Kids’ Cancer Project to combat childhood cancer.
Having overcome multiple setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project plans to stage two significant fundraising events in the coming months.
The first is a jet ski trip that will replicate the route of Alana’s blue bottle from Long Reef to Queensland.
The second is a Guinness World Record attempt inspired by one of Alana’s favourite things – pineapples.
“One of our events that got postponed was the plan to create a giant image of a pineapple using people’s bodies,” Jake explains.
“We were going to go for the record for the largest human image of a pineapple.”
Jake’s tireless work raising awareness about the importance of cancer research, as well as much needed funds, has also seen him recently named one of Westfield’s Local Heroes for 2021.
The grant program honours inspiring locals nominated and voted for by their communities and has seen Jake awarded $10,000 towards The Kids’ Cancer Project.
Jake says he hopes funding for research into early detection of, and more effective treatment options for, childhood cancer will save other families from the devastating fate his has lived through.
“The scary reality, like it was for us, is that you don’t know what to look out for, you don’t know the signs,” he says.
“Early detection is important. Unfortunately, all this research - and there is a lot being done already - is expensive.”
Jake says his family have been touched by the local support for the Blue Bottle project and are eager for the community to get involved in its upcoming events.
“It’s our way of honouring Alana,” he says.
“We’ve already seen so much community support. It is so heartening to be driving on the Beaches and see our Blue Bottle bumper stickers in the traffic. The Northern Beaches community has been so generous in their support of our efforts so far.
“As soon as we are able to proceed safely within COVID requirements, we hope our planned Blue Bottle events will be just as well supported.”
To read more about Alana’s journey, Blue Bottle and The Kids’ Cancer Project, please visit bluebottle.org.au.