Remembering Jake

John Burke, a donor dad and active volunteer with The Living Legacy Foundation sent us the following e-mail in reference to his son, Jake Burke. We felt it was beautifully written and asked permission to share it with all of you. Our thoughts are with John, Jake and their family on this day, and we hope John’s e-mail touches you all as much as it touched us on this beautiful Monday morning.


Through organ donation, Jake Burke saved the lives of at least three strangers, and through tissue donation he enhanced the lives of numerous others.

Hello Everyone,

Today, October 11th, marks the eighth year anniversary of losing my 19-year-old son, Jake. Please take a minute to reflect with me all the times that many of us had with him. This includes the good, crazy and even the bad times. Jake was killed in a car crash that occurred on Rt. 83 near the beltway on a rainy morning 8 years ago.

As tragic and horrific as the accident was, it brought about some extremely wonderful changes to my life and the lives of many others. Jake was an organ donor and by his gifts of life, he actually saved the lives of perfect strangers. For this, I am so very proud of him. I want to believe that I am a better person and am more appreciative of life, family, friends and the gifts that God has given to all of us.

Through all the grief and the memories that I have of October 11 2002, I have found strength because of Jake’s decision to give of himself. His gifts would not have been possible without the work that The Living Legacy Foundation provides. They have been there for me and my family every step of the way. They have helped me focus and turn my grief into a very positive thing. I have been volunteering for them ever since the accident and they have allowed me to tell Jake’s story, over and over again. Quite frankly, I wonder how they put up with me. I just absolutely refuse to let Jake’s life become a footnote in the history books.

EDITOR’S NOTE: John, we feel honored to have you share Jake’s story at our events and we love having you as a volunteer. Jake’s life will never be a footnote in history books, as his story touches and inspires everyone you share it with. More importantly, the lives he saved will continue to carry on his legacy for years to come.

This past May, Sally and I presented the 6th scholarship in Jake’s name to a graduating senior at Loch Raven High School. I will continue this scholarship as it brings back some great memories of Jake’s time there. Through all the football and lacrosse games, the dances, the parties and even the calls from the principal, I knew Jake loved life and wanted so much to live it to the fullest. He did that – sometimes his grades even proved it.

John, right, with his son Jake


This New Years, Sally and I will be at the Rose Bowl Parade, representing The Living Legacy Foundation. We will be working on the Donate Life float and attending all the festivities. While we won’t actually be riding on the float, we will help decorate it for the parade. We both consider this quite an honor and only hope that we represent The Living Legacy Foundation well and help promote the work that they do and the awareness that it brings. We still get chills that The Living Legacy Foundation actually asked us to represent them this year. A very special thank you to Latrice, Charlie, Karen, Jim, Jennifer, Lauren, Laura, Sherry and all the wonderful people who touch the lives of so many through their work with The Living Legacy Foundation.

When you finish reading this, I hope that you grab your kids, your spouse, your family members, close friends – hug them, kiss them, let them know how much you love them. When Jake woke up that morning, he had no idea that this would be his last day on earth. Life is way too short and so very fragile when you think about it. Show all those that you work with how much you appreciate their efforts, drive a little slower, smile more, reflect on how good you actually have it. Don’t be afraid to give of yourself to the less fortunate. Don’t be afraid to give the gift of life to others. Jake didn’t know anyone of the people he donated to. I know for a fact and first hand, how appreciative they were for Jake’s unselfish gifts.

Finally, to Sally, you never let me have my “pity party” and I am eternally grateful for that, your friendship and most of all your love.

Yes, I miss Jake terribly. I miss him every minute, of every hour, of every day. I know in my heart, that the world is a better place because of his gifts. Please raise a glass of good cheer to Jake on Monday… but not too many.

Cheers and peace to all of you!



About Lauren

Lauren Muskauski is the communications associate at The Living Legacy Foundation. She heads up many community outreach initiatives and projects, with a focus on middle school, high school and college outreach. She also manages The LLF’s and Donate Life Maryland’s presence on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Lauren’s commitment to donation started early when she registered as an organ, eye and tissue donor at the MVA upon receiving her first drivers’ license, but was then reinforced a few years later when her father passed away while waiting for a liver transplant. Now, she continues to be inspired on a daily basis by the generosity of donors and their families, as well as the gratitude exhibited by every recipient she meets.
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6 Responses to Remembering Jake

  1. Angela Humm says:

    John thank you for sharing this wonderful email. If it weren’t for selfless people like your son Jake I would not be where I am today with a loving husband and son. My husband Henry has had 2 heart transplants and a kidney transplants due to the gift of life. I thank God everyday for wonderful people like Jake and your family…without all of you wonderful people my life would be empty. May God bless you and continue to have Jake’s memory live on forever. All of us in our home will raise a glass to Jake this evening and thank him for being such a courageous person to the end.

  2. karen says:

    We are so fortunate to know you and work with you. Our thoughts are with you today. Thanks for everything you do to support donation.

  3. Stephen Monti says:

    It really blesses me and brings tears to my eyes to google his name and find this article. Jake was a great friend of mine and I was sitting next to him in the backseat that fateful night. It could of been either one of us and there is good chance I owe my life to him which is something I have struggled with since that night. It really blesses me to see his donation story and legacy being told. God bless his father and family and the lives he saved outside of my own.

    Thank you Jake, God speed buddy.

    • Lauren says:

      What a beautifully sweet comment, Stephen. Jake’s legacy continues to live on through the lives he saved, as well as in the memories of those who loved him. It’s hard to know why things happen the way they do, but I hope that knowing some good came out of such a tragic loss brings you a little peace. Take care.


  4. Jaime Lutz says:

    I feel blessed to have been a part of Jake’s life. He was such a kind, wonderful person (and a good dancer too! Haha) I never thought the hug goodbye and him saying “see you Saturday” would be one of the last moments before the accident, and ultimately his Life.
    I am confident that with Jake’s organ donation, a little piece of him is still alive and his spirit lives on in those people he donated to. I’m sure they are grateful for the gift of life that Jake gave them. Jake was such a gift to his friends and family while he was with us, and I’m glad in light of this tragedy, that someone else got a second chance at life. Jake will never be forgotten, and I’m glad that so many people get to hear his story. This post has brought back so many good memories of Jake, as well as some tears. RIP my friend. You are missed.

  5. Natalie Purdum says:

    Jake Burke was the most amazing person I have ever met. He was so caring and sweet. Through thick and thin he always new how to make me smile. He was supportive, unselfish and just an all around great guy. I have so many amazing memories of the time we spent together. I still go to visit his grave, as often as I can. I sit and tell him how much he is loved and how much I miss him. He is truly truly missed. Jakes passing, to this day, was the hardest experience of my life. It still hurts but He will continue to live in my memory for the rest of my life. Theres is not a day goes by that I dont think of his smile and what a wonderful boyfriend he was.

    Knowing that you are working to keep Jakes memory alive is so wonderful. I am so thrilled to hear that he has helped change so many peoples lives for the better, I know that he changed mine.

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