WESTFIELD, NJ – Jake Tooley was 19 when he died in a house fire.
Since the 2017 blaze, the community has rallied around his family, which also lost their puppy in the flames that destroyed the Prospect Street home.
Sam Tooley, Jake’s now 26-year-old brother, subsequently formed the Tooley Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit founded in his brother’s honor. The Westfield Board of Recreation on Monday approved the foundation’s plan to hold a 5K run in Jake’s honor.
“Jake’s passing came only nine months after we had suddenly lost our Dad,” Tooley said in announcing the run. “Jake and I had always been incredibly close, having gone through as much as two brothers ever could. We were best friends. His loss hurts my heart every single day but has also sparked a new level of motivation and drive.”
Tooley, who is still a runner, was a captain of his high school's cross country and track teams and is the founder of the gym Alpha Performance, which has locations in Westfield and Garwood.
“My purpose now is to motivate and inspire others through my actions and to make my brother and my dad proud,” Tooley said. “I can think of no better way than to give back to the community of Westfield through charitable events that bring us together.”
Following his brother’s death, an online fundraiser for Tooley’s family raised over $200,000.
“Westfield rallied around my mom and I after Jake’s passing in a way that I cannot accurately articulate,” Tooley said. “The outpouring of love was incredible.”
The Night of Lights 5K is set for Sunday, Sept. 8, at 6:30 p.m. at Tamaques Park. Proceeds will directly benefit Westfield’s first responders, organizers said.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh