The guest of honor wasn't at Saturday's first birthday party for Samuel Jakeman. But Samuel's family hoped he would still make an impression on more than 50 people who came to the Richland Community Center.
Samuel died Feb. 9 from a heart defect. His parents, Eli and Alicia Jakeman, wanted to do something to give his life a purpose.
So they organized a party to benefit Ronald McDonald House, the nonprofit facility where they stayed while Samuel was hospitalized at Seattle Children's Hospital.
In a large room looking out onto Howard Amon Park and the Columbia River, they conducted a silent auction. The event raised $1,356 for Ronald McDonald House Charities, topping a fundraising goal of $1,200. Kids enjoyed beanbag games, balloons, cupcakes and popcorn.
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"What I really thought was the anniversary of his passing is going to be in February, which is going to be really sad," Alicia Jakeman said. "So I wanted to have a happy anniversary."
The Ronald McDonald House made life easier for the Jakemans during their ordeal and allowed them to meet other people going through the same situation, Alicia Jakeman said.
"If you have to get a hotel, you are probably not going to be near the hospital, and Seattle traffic is terrible," she said. "And it was really important to have some kind of normal life while all of this was going on."
Eli Jakeman is a mechanical engineer for Energy Northwest, but there were others at the Ronald McDonald House who weren't as well off. Alicia's father, Craig Westbrook of Yakima, said he met a man there from Alaska who had lost his job because his child had been in the hospital so long.
"The people at Children's Hospital and Ronald McDonald House were very sympathetic, anything you need," he said.
Alicia Jakeman, who also has a daughter, Penelope, 3, helps parents of children with heart problems.
Aimee Lybbert of Yakima, who had been friends with the Jakemans before Samuel was born, found out her own son, Christian, had an even more rare heart defect than Samuel shortly after he was born a few weeks after Samuel died. She said the Jakemans came back to Seattle to help her through her struggles.
Alicia Jakeman now helps members of an online community of mothers of children with heart problems. Lybbert said she has been there for some of the other mothers when their children died.
"I couldn't do this without Alicia," she said. "I think as a mother, your worst fear is losing a child."
Samuel would have enjoyed his first birthday party, Eli Jakeman said.
"He liked people, he liked seeing people," he said. "He would have been interested in what everybody was doing. I think it would be fun."
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; email@example.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom