DAD: Saraa Ackerman, Ollie, 3, and Milly, 2, remember husband and father James Ackerman.
DAD: Saraa Ackerman, Ollie, 3, and Milly, 2, remember husband and father James Ackerman. Tessa Mapstone

James still in their hearts: Ackerman family

WHEN James Ackerman died after a tackle on the rugby league field, his aunt Kaylene Hart promised she would keep his name alive.

"The day of the football game that took his life I went straight to the hospital to be with my family and my sister," she said.

"He looked so beautiful and so peaceful and I came home that night thinking that he was going to be okay.

"A lot of people say it gets easier over time, but some days it definitely feels like it gets harder."

The death of the 25-year-old Sunshine Coast Falcons prop following a shoulder charge on June 22 rocked the rugby league community and devastated his family, leaving behind his wife, Saraa and their two young children Ollie, 3, and Milly, 2.

Since James' death his family has received messages of support and love, and donations, sometimes from complete strangers.

Kaylene started the Facebook Page Support for Ackers #8, where friends and family continue to share memories and tributes to James.

THANKYOU: Kaylene Hart, Jodie Forder-Hurrell, Lance Hurrell, Saraa, Ollie and Milly Ackerman.
THANKYOU: Kaylene Hart, Jodie Forder-Hurrell, Lance Hurrell, Saraa, Ollie and Milly Ackerman.

She said those messages meant the world to his family.

"He always had that 'whatever it takes' attitude so because his kids are so little I just wanted to start something on the Facebook site so when they're old enough to understand they'll have something they can look at and see daddy was so important in people's lives.

"Some of the messages we get bring tears to my eyes and touch my heart and I share those messages with Sonya and Michael - James' mum and dad.

"Just knowing how many lives he has touched ... there are no words to describe how grateful and how proud we are of that."

The family will have the chance to thank those supporters in person at the James Ackerman Memorial Race Day, at Corbould Park on November 22, five months to the day since James died.

Outside football James lived for his family and his love of horse racing, a passion he developed with his brother Andrew supporting his jockey uncle Greg Ryan, who will ride in the eight race program.

"I've been telling people we'll have a day out at the races the Ackers way, which is to have a beer and a punt," Kaylene said.

"From Sonya and Michael and James' brothers Andrew and Thomas, we can't say thank you enough for all the support we've had."

All profits from the day will go towards the James Ackerman Trust Fund.

James was an organ donor, and the DonateLife Network will hold its first annual Thank You Day on November 22, honouring donors and their families.

FOR ACKERS: Kaylene Hart promised that her nephew’s name would live on.
FOR ACKERS: Kaylene Hart promised that her nephew’s name would live on.

In memory of Ackers

WHAT: James Ackerman Memorial Race Day

WHERE: Corbould Park, Racecourse Rd, Caloundra.

WHEN: November 22, gates open 11am

TICKETS: $120 single, $1200 table of 10. Includes meal and drink package. Phone 0400 288 522 or visit the Facebook page Support for Ackers #8.


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