In the weeks before Bree Brown died, the 15-year-old planned for a future she would not see.
This wasn’t about being remembered. Bree, a bright, beautiful teenager who loved art and music and makeup and life, could not be forgotten.
But the young girl who was battling a rare cancer called Ewing sarcoma wanted to help others going through similar hardships, even if she wasn’t going to be around to lead the efforts or experience the joy caused by them.
And so she spoke in specifics those final days. She gave her organization a mission and defined the age groups that it would help. And then she named it.
“When she died the next week, in lieu of flowers, we just asked for donations for Bree’s Blessings,” said Jenni Brown, Bree’s mother and president of the nonprofit. “We just haven’t stopped since.”
A year has come and gone since Bree’s June 2018 death, but her vision continues. Through the organization she imagined, children who are undergoing cancer treatment at four area hospitals in Louisville, Indianapolis and Cincinnati receive a bag filled with items related to art or music. They also find an application for a wish gift. To help ease the burden of treatments, each child can request a music or art item of up to $300.
The organization has been known to go over that limit to meet the child’s needs.
“It’s really cool, too, to see what these kids come up with,” Jenni said. “We’ve had a lot of requests the past year. We’ve had kids that have wanted sewing machines, keyboards, Beats headphones, Broadway tickets…”
Healing the body from cancer can be tough and therapies can wreak havoc on children’s bodies and lives, at times isolating them from their family and friends. During the 2.5 years she was treated for her illness, Bree used her creativity to not only cope with the pain and limitations, but also to thrive. She participated in art therapy and made beautiful works. Her love of makeup was limitless. And in addition to learning how to play the guitar and ukulele, the Scottsburg High School student had begun to play the piano.
In the future, she had hoped to become a music therapist.
Just as it did with Bree, art and music can provide an outlet from these troubles. In the videos and photos the parents send Jenni of their kids receiving their wish gifts, the children light up.
The charity has also allowed for Jenni to help process her grief.
“It’s been really therapeutic in that aspect, where I’m able to still purchase things she would like and give them to someone else and bring just a little bit of joy to their day,” Jenni said. “Now if I see something and I think ‘Bree would have loved that’ I just buy it because I know another kid is going to love it, too.”
And on Aug. 17 at The Grand in New Albany, Jenni and Bree’s Blessings will hold their first big fundraiser that Bree was sure to have loved. It features one of her favorite local bands, The Louisville Crashers, as well as tons of artsy silent auction items that include hand painted ukuleles. Tickets for “Beats for Blessings,” the name for inaugural event, may be purchased online at Breesblessings.com.
Donations, both monetary and of makeup and quality art supplies, are always welcome to aid in Bree’s mission. You can give online at the link above or mail items to Bree's Blessings Inc., P.O. Box 206, Scottsburg, IN 47170.
While you visit the website, check out the stories and photos of the kids who have received some of these blessings. Their smiles, and Bree’s legacy, will warm your heart.
— Amanda Hillard Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at email@example.com.