NJ girl stricken with fatal tumor lives on in foundation, annual bike run
NEW PROVIDENCE — By all accounts, Brooke Healey was a "perfectly normal" 4-year-old — until she was diagnosed with an aggressive, inoperable brain tumor early in 2013.
Brooke died eight months later, but her memory is the impetus behind a rapidly expanding foundation that brings awareness to the condition that took her life.
The way the Union County community rallied around the child prompted her parents, Steve and Stefani Healey, to establish the Brooke Healey Foundation. One of the nonprofit's main objectives is education about Brooke's illness, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, which attacks the pons at the top of the brain stem.
"Our mission is to promote awareness for this particular brain tumor and other pediatric brain tumors," Stefani Healey said.
Donations to the organization help families who are affected by similar diagnoses, and while the foundation has reached a national audience in a short time, its focus remains in New Jersey.
"So if there's kids in the area who need help, we're able to even provide more help with them, hands-on help," Healey said.
Portions of the money raised also go toward conducting further research and providing scholarships. Healey said she and the other board members are very active in choosing the "right research," and part of the reason Healey believes Brooke's foundation has grown so quickly is the relative rarity of this condition.
"If you have this type of brain tumor or one that's similar to it, the community becomes very small," she said.
The Brooke Healey Foundation is gearing up for one of its spotlight annual events, the Bikers for Brooke motorcycle run on June 12. It begins in New Providence and ends with a family barbecue all afternoon in Berkeley Heights.
Healey said she did not know much about bike runs prior to Brooke's death, but is thankful that the biker community has merged with hers in what she said is a very emotional scene each year.
Cost is $25 per driver and $15 per passenger, with additional costs to attend the barbecue, although you do not have to participate in the run to come to the luncheon. More information is available at brookehealey.com.
Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email email@example.com.