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'He actually had a heart defect that none of us were aware of' | Family turns tragedy into action after loss of 12-year-old

A Huntersville family is hopeful despite losing a loved one to a heart defect.

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — The Jacobs family is hoping to be a shining light in the community after the loss of one of their loved ones to an undetected heart defect.

At 12 years old, Gabriel Jacobs died while playing basketball in the backyard.

“When this happened, it was as if someone had called Gabriel," Frank Jacobs recalled. "We were all standing there. He didn’t fall. He just laid down.”

It sent shockwaves through the family.

“When Gabriel died [on] April 9, 2015, I really did feel powerless," Frank Jr. Jacobs said. "It was a very tough situation, in a sense that there was not much that I could do.”

Gabriel Jacobs was active in sports and an anti-bullying mediator.

“He actually had a heart defect that none of us were aware of," his mom Kim Jacobs said. 

His death shed light on an important aspect of the family. Three of Gabriel's family members -- Jayla, Ivan and Jeremiah Jacobs -- are all living with cystic fibrosis. 

Jayla Jacobs has known she had CF since she was a young child. She tries to use Gabriel's passing as motivation. Jayla Jacobs creates her own YouTube content and hopes to become a Christian missionary someday.

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“I do try to emit his energy in my YouTube videos so people can feel more comfortable in my content, and hopefully, I can make a lot of people feel like they are my best friend, too," Jayla Jacobs said.

Jeremiah Jacobs said Jayla Jacobs has helped him with his diagnosis.

“Jayla has been the head motivator because she has been doing it for as long as I can remember," Jeremiah Jacobs said.

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They're all dealing with the illness differently. Ivan Jacobs has transformed his body through diet and exercise to become a powerful football player with cystic fibrosis.

“The main motivator for me to play football was definitely Gabriel," Ivan Jacobs said. "Whenever he passed, I knew I had to honor him in some way, so I started playing football for my high school.”

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Jeremiah Jacobs is a student at Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina, and aims to become a famous actor with CF. 

“My goal in life is to become a CF spokesperson and really shine light that CF people, we can do whatever any regular person can do," Jeremiah Jacobs said.

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Their brother, Frank Jr. Jacobs, tested negative for the illness.

Kim Jacobs said they’ll never know if Gabriel had CF, but instead of focusing on what they don't know, they're focusing on how Gabriel was a "beam of hope." 

The Jacobs family is striving to be a reflection of Gabriel in everything they do.

Through Gabe’s Heart Foundation, the Jacobses' mission is to allow his heart to keep beating by raising awareness and giving back in his honor.

“Through the random acts of kindness that we do call 'Doing it Gabe’s Way,' we are able to just bless so many people, and we know when we do those random acts, whether it's gas, groceries, anything, I know that he’s celebrating from heaven that we’re representing him like this," Kim Jacobs said.

Beyond the foundation, the Jacobs family is Doing it Gabe’s Way by stepping up to the plate to inspire others.

Contact Ruby Durham at rdurham@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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