Fundraiser held to benefit Salem native with a brain tumor

Shawn Nowlin


Submitted photo Josh Stanley, Jacob’s friend, and Zachary Pillis, Jacob’s brother, were among the hundreds of people who supported the fundraiser.

Roughly 750 members of the community recently gathered at Olde Salem Brewery to help raise money for Jacob Pillis, a beloved Salem resident who was diagnosed with a brain tumor years ago. Some participated in the fundraiser for hours. Others dropped by just to put some money in the donation jar.

Daniel and Sean Turk are co-owners of Olde Salem Brewery, and have known Jacob for years. Both said they’ve never seen so much traffic in their establishment. All proceeds went to the Pillis family.

Cassie Pillis-Gent has known Jacob before he was born. Pillis-Gent, Jacob’s older cousin, distinctly remembers the day his mom said she was pregnant.

“I was beyond excited. He was born during my 14th birthday party. At that moment, I wanted to leave and go to the hospital immediately to see him. I obviously couldn’t leave my own party, so my mom promised we would be the first ones to visit the second they came home,” she said. “I couldn’t wait to hold him. From that moment on, he was my little buddy.”

Those who know Jacob best describe him as persistent, strong, intelligent, compassionate and faithful. Said cousin-in-law Mary Kiracofe, “Jacob is the bravest and one of the funniest people I know. He is so kind. Jacob always has a positive attitude despite the hurdles he has faced. He loves his family, girlfriend, Sarah, and his dogs.”

In 2016, the Salem High graduate was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, a rare malignant brain tumor. Surgery commenced shortly thereafter, but he suffered a stroke during the procedure. Jacob participated in physical therapy in the following years to regain and improve his mobility. In 2019, Jacob learned he had a new tumor.

Kiracofe’s favorite part of the fundraiser was seeing so many people rally behind a great cause. “Salem is a special place. It was really nice to spend the day with family and friends. The Pillis family are thankful to Sean and Daniel Turk and everyone who has shown support during Jacob’s journey,” she said.

Added Pillis-Gent, “I keep saying that I want to be like Jacob when I grow up, and I mean it. I strive to be more like him each and every day. His attitude, his determination, his unselfishness and his unconditional love for life and family are things that I greatly admire.”




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