The Joke Man

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“How do you catch a squirrel? You act like a nut!” exclaims 14-year-old Jake Ingham with a burst of laughter.

Donned “The Joke Man” by a Duke Radiothon host in early 2008, Jake has written a joke book every year since second grade. When he graduated from Morris Grove Elementary School three years ago, his occupational therapist even bound the first four editions together into a hardcover compilation. During the 2013 Duke Children’s Radiothon, an anonymous donor called and bought the last copy of the book for $50,000, all of which went to the Duke Children’s Hospital.

Jake’s jovial attitude and knack for cracking jokes only scratch the surface of his incredible story, however.

Jake was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor when he was just 15 months old and he has spent nearly half of his life undergoing chemotherapy to combat the tumor. He has had three major surgeries to remove parts of the tumor, but it has come back with a vengeance each time and last October, Jake was connected with Kids Path, a hospice program for kids in Alamance County.

“I didn’t want to go on hospice care because you don’t really want to admit that you are out of options but hospice came in and they were fantastic. Looking back, for what they do, they do a really, really great job,” said Jake’s mother, Rachel Ingham.

In many ways, Jake’s time on hospice brought the Ingham family together like nothing else could.

“When we went on hospice care, we had a lot of help from friends and family and they mostly focused on Jake instead of the other children, it was really nice to have something that was for the family, because a lot of the time the other children end up in the background,” said Rachel.

Around Christmastime, Kids Path and Sam’s Wish Fund gave the Ingham family a Caribbean Disney Cruise.

Sam’s Wish Fund was founded in 2009 in memory of Samantha Harvell, who died from cancer at the age 17. Much like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the fund grants the wishes of children in hospice throughout the area. It provides kids with “things they could never get to do, it gives them a little hope in a rough place,” said Troy Cates, Samatha’s uncle.

“We were looking forward to being able to spend time as a family because it was a really rough year for us, and a really rough fall, and it was really tough on the family so we just wanted to spend some time together as a family,” said Rachel.

On the cruise, Jake was able meet all of his favorite Disney characters while just being a kid and doing what he does best: tell jokes.

“It was really fun,” says Jake matter-of-factly.

The cruise brought an end to the Ingham’s tumultuous fall and in April, Jake was released from hospice care. He is fully enrolled at McDougal Middle School and next year will move on to Chapel Hill High School. Jake’s battle is not over but he is bouncing back from hospice and seems to be his former, lively self.

“[The cruise] was kind of like a culmination of all hopes and dreams,” said Rachel.

Kids Path is a children’s hospice program that was founded in Greensboro in 2000 and now services most of North Carolina and parts of South Carolina, Louisiana and West Virginia. Through Sam’s Wish Fund, Kids Path of Alamance County has been able to grant the wishes of many local children since 2009. To learn more about Sam’s Wish Fund, visit

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Peter Rathmell

Peter Rathmell is a summer intern at Chapel Hill Magazine. Born in Palo Alto, Calif., he grew up in Chapel Hill and is currently a rising junior at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va., majoring in journalism. When he is not playing basketball, he can typically be found with a Chipotle burrito in hand on Franklin Street or exploring Southern Village with his dog, Bernie.
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