Friend throws support behind Jack's Appeal

8:01am Monday 17th March 2014

ONE of Jack Thomas’ closest friends has spoken of the torment of hearing the news of his sudden death, and has vowed to help prevent it from happening to anyone else.

On February 12, 2012, 15-year-old Taekwondo star Jack Thomas, from Oakdale, died suddenly of a suspected heart problem while at his girlfriend’s house in Newbridge.

Jack, who stood at a towering 6ft 3in, had no previous health issues and was competing towards the European Championships at the time of his tragic death.

The Argus has since teamed up with his parents, Grant and June Thomas, to try and get heart defibrillators, which cost around a £1,000 each, into every secondary school across Gwent and the Rhymney Valley as part of Jack’s Appeal.

Owen Davies, who is now 18 and on a rugby scholarship at Monmouth School, was a lifelong friend of Jack’s. The scrum-half, who is part of the Newport Gwent Dragons set-up, currently plays for Newbridge RFC and is on the cusp of the Wales under-18 squad.

Mr Davies said: “We were really good friends, or I’d like to think so anyway. We grew up together and were in the same class throughout school. Our families even went on holiday to the Dominican Republic together when me and Jack were around nine or ten years old – it was the best holiday.

“He was just great to be around. He’d love the banter and you couldn’t imagine life without him there – he was the focal point of the group really and would make us all laugh. Obviously tae kwon do was his thing, but he did football and rugby just to be around the boys.”

Mr Davies remembers how he learned of the tragic news. He added: “My mate Scott got a text off a boy from school who told him. We didn’t believe it to start with. We went back to our parents and we had the news confirmed to us. We were in bits.

“When the news spread, we all decided to meet up at Oakdale square the next day. Loads of people turned up, pretty much everyone from our year. It happened a day before I had my under-16s trials with Wales at the Vale (of Glamorgan Resort) so I had to leave early, but people said to me that Jack would want me to go. For months afterwards, that’s all I could think about. Jack played a big part in my motivation.”

Mr Davies, who is also from Oakdale, is now keen to support Jack’s Appeal and is eager to discuss ways of fundraising with the rest of his friends.

“We know what it’s like as a group to go through that so it would be great if we could help prevent it from happening again in the future,” he added. “No-one deserves that – Jack didn’t deserve it and his family didn’t deserve it. If this campaign helps to save one person’s life, then it will all be worthwhile.”

- Tickets for the The King and Queen of Hearts Summer Ball (in memory of Jack’s Appeal) are £45 each, and includes a sparkling drinks reception, a three-course dinner and entertainment. It will be held at the Hilton Newport Hotel on Chepstow Road, Langstone, NP18 2LX, on June 7, 2014. People are being encouraged to arrive at 7pm for a 7.30pm start. To book tickets to the Summer Ball contact Welsh Hearts Fundraising Office on 02920 786521 or e-mail fundraising@welshhearts.org

To make a donation or donate the proceeds of a fundraising event, send cheques made payable to Welsh Hearts charity, either to its headquarters at Temple Court, 13a Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9HA, or to Newsdesk, South Wales Argus, Cardiff Road, Newport, NP20 3QN. Please write ‘Jack Thomas defibs appeal’ on the back of the envelope.

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