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Positive steps: Parents start foundation in son's memory

Photo: Andrew McMurtrie. Heidi and Jay Bullock hold a picture of their son Jacob Bullock, who at age 14 was playing on a frozen lake when one of his friends fell through the ice and in an effort to save his friend, Jacob also fell through the ice and lost his life on Jan. 9, 2010. The Bullock family started the Jacob D. Bullock Foundation in his honor that is committed to providing scholarships, mentoring, youth programs and activities that encourage personal responsibility, build positive character, enrich self-esteem and motivate positive choices. They will also be hosting a 5K today to help raise money.

Photo: Andrew McMurtrie. Heidi and Jay Bullock hold a picture of their son Jacob Bullock, who at age 14 was playing on a frozen lake when one of his friends fell through the ice and in an effort to save his friend, Jacob also fell through the ice and lost his life on Jan. 9, 2010. The Bullock family started the Jacob D. Bullock Foundation in his honor that is committed to providing scholarships, mentoring, youth programs and activities that encourage personal responsibility, build positive character, enrich self-esteem and motivate positive choices. They will also be hosting a 5K today to help raise money.

DACULA -- On Jan. 9, 2010, 14-year-old Jacob Bullock drowned.

The day of record-testing cold brought an iced-over lake in his Daniel Park subdivision, and a new feat for the athletic youngster with an energetic smile.

"I still remember where I left him, at the top of the steps (before going to work)," his mother, Heidi, says almost 17 months later. "He was begging his dad to let him go outside."

The day turned tragic. Abandoning their game of cold-weather basketball and spotting a few girls on the small pond, Jacob and two friends, Alex Paul and Marvens Mathurin, ventured out onto the ice.

The girls long gone, Jacob and company stayed behind. When Marvens wandered into the middle of the lake, the ice collapsed, leaving him in the water and calling for help.

Jacob and Alex crawled on their bellies to try to help, ultimately falling into the icy water themselves. By the end, Alex was able to pull himself out and was treated for hypothermia and shock.

Jacob and Marvens, both eighth-graders at Osborne Middle School, were submerged for almost an hour. They wouldn't make it.

"By the time I got down there, they were pulling them out," Jacob's father, Jay, said quietly. "They were dragging them out."

Emergency room doctors worked on Jacob for the better part of two hours, hoping he still had some life left. On that day, the stellar football player and excellent student known as "JB" didn't.

In the year-plus since, though, his legacy has been given new life.

Three months following the tragedy, Heidi Bullock's sister -- Jacob's aunt -- proposed an idea: Jacob's influence in life, and after it, could be put to a good use. His death didn't have to bring only tears and dispair. It could bring hope, light and guidance.

"So many people, so many kids, so many adults talked to me after Jacob's passing about how he impacted their lives in such a positive way," Heidi Bullock said. "Things like, 'I was really, really down and Jacob just had that word that lifted my spirits, he was always smiling and he was always positive.'"

The kid that was "everybody's big brother" in his Dacula cul-de-sac, loved to goof around with teammates and faithfully idolized his older sister gave his life trying to help a friend. Starting the Jacob Bullock Foundation, his parents have in turn vowed to spend their lives helping young people between ages 12 and 18, the group that will now be Jacob's peers forever.

"I think because he tried to help his friend, that's why we want to kind of keep this going," Jay Bullock said.

Started in May of last year, the foundation has adopted its mission of "encouraging responsibility, enriching self-esteem and motivating positive choices." With a heavy focus on mentoring, it is spreading its message of "Jus B," with a number of affixations -- "jus b" courageous, honest, courteous, motivated, responsible, confident.

Dewayne "Coach D" Williams helped coach Jacob's football team for three years, calling the youngster respectful, hard-working and soft-spoken with a "vibrant personality."

He's become the co-chair of the foundation.

"It's needed because people have the belief that they're insulated in their community," Williams said. "They read about everybody else's children, and really don't realize what their children have been exposed to."

The foundation raised roughly $10,000 during its first dinner on Aug. 15, which would have been Jacob's 15th birthday. Since then it has hosted numerous mentoring opportunities, things like "Boys Night Out" at a Georgia Force game, has encouraged community involvement through a number of service projects, hoping to soon get off the ground offering tutoring subsidization for needy kids.

A 5K fun run hosted today at Little Mulberry Park in Dacula will hope to continue to raise funds for the budding organization.

It needs more adult volunteers, Heidi Bullock said, echoing Williams' thought that, even in somewhere like Gwinnett County, every child is an at-risk child.

"When you open your door and you let your children out of your sight, they're at risk," Bullock said. "They can be walking down the street and just run into the wrong person. It's not just about kids that are 'bad' per se. It's about young people in general.

"They just need our support."

For more information or to donate, visit www.jacobbullock.org.