A letter from our founder, Tink Bechtol, Brooke's Mom to our volunteers and supporters...
Thank your for your interest in Brooke's Legacy Animal Rescue.
I ask, “do you really know what Brooke's Legacy is about?”
I have been really thinking about this again lately and I am guessing for many the answer is “no”. Many of you don't even know who I am. I too am a Brooke’s Legacy volunteer, but I am also Brooke’s mom. Some of you know my name, but not the journey I have been on, so I wanted to share this with all of you because I think sometimes we all lose focus, including myself.
I get calls frequently that get me thinking. One that has stayed with me for quite awhile from Alicia, Brooke's trainer/friend. She told me, that after all these years, she still thinks of Brooke every day. She said to me, "she was your daughter and I can't imagine how you feel, because I know how I feel and she wasn't even my daughter". That call was nine years ago and I am sure she feels the same today. Most of you involved in this rescue, as adopters, volunteers, donors, or supporters, never knew Brooke, my daughter, who this rescue is named after.
Brooke Ashley Miller born March 28, 1986--April 4, 2004.
I never woke up one morning and said "my daughter is going to die in a tragic car accident and I am going to start a rescue and save animals from euthanasia". But my daughter did die in a fatal car accident and I did start a rescue to give animals a second chance, something Brooke never had.
If you ask anyone who knew Brooke, they will tell you what a wonderful young lady she was. She was smart, beautiful, outgoing, caring, sensitive, strong and so much more! She was in beauty pageants when she was 9 months old until about 1 1/2 years old. She won numerous State titles. (I still have her tiara's, trophies and sashes). All the judges LOVED her beautiful red hair. I remember one time a lady asked what L’oreal color it was. She wanted her hair the same color. I think Brooke was about 2 at that time. I was so young back then, I didn't even know what she meant. My mom had to tell me that the lady wanted to color her hair the same color as Brooke's.
Brooke was also involved in dance classes, cheerleading, softball, and loved animals. In kindergarten at Lely Elementary, she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up and she said a farmer. 1st grade thru 5th grade she attended Golden Terrace Elementary where she was an honor roll student all 5 years! As a young mother I was extremely proud! She was a little helper with her brother Mason. Always wanting to help take care of him. They were very close. She loved to be outside. We had a buggy and would go "mudding" and 4 wheeling. She was a true country girl! She loved horses and was a natural at all riding techniques. Western Pleasure, English, Jumping, but Barrel Racing was her favorite. She had started riding horses when she was little, but actually took riding lessons when she was 9. Alicia, her trainer, said she was a natural. She won many competitions throughout Florida. She first started competing on a beautiful Thoroughbred named “Jet Set Annie” who was off the race track. Her first show was at the Labelle Arena in Labelle, Florida (there is a tree in her memory planted there). She rode many horses and then she started riding “Red Dawn’, a strong, solid mare, purchased for Brooke on her 16th birthday. They were an awesome team.
In 7th grade she asked me if I would home school her. Wow, there is no way I could do that. But I researched it, and had her tested to find out what grade level she was at. When I got her test results back I was in shock. At 12 years old and in the 7th grade my child tested at a 12th grade level. I had no idea where she got that from. I knew she was smart but WOW! So homeschooling went well for her. I always thought it was funny when people would say to me " what about her socialization"?? She had NOOO PROBLEM in that area.
At 16 she started Edison College. She would watch her little brother Colton in the morning and then bring him to me at my work on her way to Edison.
She was always there to help her siblings; Mason, Cheyenne and Colton. She told me one day "Mom, if anything ever happens to you don't worry I will take care of them", and I knew she would.
She was very involved in 4-H. She did the "Know your County Government" program. Represented Collier County at Legislature, and also showed horses, swine, rabbits, goats and poultry in the Collier County Fair. (There is a tree planted in her memory at the fair grounds).
She worked at Pat's Kids Club and loved it. She was very upset one day after work and I asked her what was wrong. She said she was written up at work. I asked for what, and she told me a little kid came up and hugged her and she was told not to hug the child back. She told them she may be the only one giving that child a hug. Maybe there was no one at home hugging that child. She continued hugging them and got written up. She eventually gave her notice. Some of those kids were at her memorial service. I still have their cards, letters and pictures.
She worked at Applebee's as a hostess, New To You Consignment, and helped me at my business (groomingdales of Naples). She was involved with the youth group at Cornerstone Church.
There is so much I could share with all of you, but I think you get the picture of who Brooke was and how many lives she impacted.
On March 27th, 2004, Brooke and I were headed to a horse show in Port Charlotte, when we realized we were missing the coggins for the horse (a paper that is always in our center console). So without it, no horse show. Looking back, I know now we weren't supposed to be at that horse show. Driving home we talked and talked. Brooke wanted to get a tattoo. I said "NO, when you turn 18 you can do whatever you want". "Mom I am going to be 18 tomorrow!" she said. "Well do it tomorrow" I said. I asked her what kind of tattoo she would get, she said a blue butterfly. We stopped and went shopping at a western wear store in Ft Myers on our way home, we got matching boots, shirts, and jeans.
After getting home and unloading the horse and horse trailer, Brooke and her friends wanted to go to Bad Luck Prairie and go camping. At first I said no, and then agreed when she said, “all my friends are coming out there for my birthday to go mudding and 4 wheeling and were having a cookout and bon fire. PLEASEEEEE”. She even agreed to take her little brother Mason who was 14 at the time. I said, “Be careful. Be home in time for your birthday party tomorrow”. I went inside to make hamburgers when I noticed she took the hamburger with her for her cookout!! The next day I spoke to her around 1ish and I headed out to get the decorations for her party. My mom and I were getting everything ready for her 18th birthday bash: a DJ (that she had met with to plan the music), food, family, gifts, decorations, a cake in the shape of a rebel flag. I kept trying to get in touch with her to make sure she got home by 4 to get cleaned up for the party. I thought her battery must be dead on her phone is why she didn't answer.
Later I would figure out why she didn't answer me. I was at my mom's house getting everything ready, when my husband called me and told me he was getting ready to leave the house and he got a phone call that there was an accident and Brooke was med flighted to Lee Memorial Hospital. He said he was on his way to get me and to take me there. I said “I am going NOW!” He said not to worry she was ok. My friend Serena stayed at my mom's with the kids and to let the guests and DJ know what was going on. Her husband drove myself and my mom to the hospital. All I could think of was if she was ok, why did she go in the med flight, and why to Lee Memorial? When I got there I was told to have a seat and someone would be out to get me. That didn't sit well with me. I wanted answers and I wanted to see my daughter--Immediately! A short man took us to a small room and started telling us that Brooke had a head injury and was being monitored. Finally he took me into the ER. When I approached her bed, I could see her legs moving, I knew she was alive! Thank you God! I spoke to her saying “Brooke, it's ok, I am here” and she kept saying "Mom, Mom, mom”. I noticed when she would lift her head there was a large amount of blood on the pillow. It was dripping to the floor. The doctor told me they wanted to put a gauge in Brooke's skull to monitor any swelling. They would put her in an induced coma and continue monitoring her. When I left the room, I said to myself, “Thank God she isn't paralyzed”. I was thankful that I didn't have to make "THAT" decision.
On the trauma floor, you could only visit every 2 hours for 20 minutes. I watched my daughters monitors. Her #'s would change when I entered the room. The nurses said she knew I was there. The next day, Monday the 29th, she had a CT scan and it showed swelling in the front lobe of her brain. The doctor wanted to remove it. There were also some small fractures towards the back of her skull but he wasn't worried as much about them. (He should have been.) I asked what would be the outcome of this and he said some short term memory loss, but she is young, and wouldn't last for long. Ok. They weren't going to have to shave too much of her scalp. Surgery went well, yet the funny thing is, no one noticed the cut on the back of her head, the one I noticed immediately the day before, until they were in doing surgery. So they ended up shaving half her scalp to stitch the gash on the back of her head. She came out with her head bandaged. Every day she was getting better, her monitor numbers were getting close to normal.
Friday, April 2nd, around 11:00 pm , the nurses called me to her room to show me her monitors, they were normal numbers. I was so happy!! I went back to my room that I was staying in at the hospital and started making plans for her rehabilitation. I knew she would be in the hospital for a while and then would move to a facility to help her get back to her normal self. She wouldn't be making the State Finals she qualified for but there would always be next year! That would never happen. That Saturday morning, after being at the hospital this entire time, I decided to go to a benefit barrel race being held for Brooke at the arena close to the hospital. I knew she was in good hands, and her numbers were great! Cheyenne was riding Brooke's horse, Red Dawn, and I knew she wanted me there. Brooke would want me there. At the barrel race Cheyenne was getting ready to ride Red, and my phone rang. It was my mom, she had stayed at the hospital. I told her I would call her right back as Cheyenne was at the starting gate. Cheyenne rode so well and so proud, but the horse didn't stop. Cheyenne was thrown into the gate and was rushed into the ambulance. After being checked out she was fine. Strange. My phone rang and it was my mom, I had forgotten to call her back. When I answered, she said get back to the hospital now and that Brooke had taken a turn for the worse. I rushed into the trauma unit. My daughter’s numbers where higher than they had ever been. She was rushed into emergency surgery for a second brain surgery. My mom and I went into the chapel. My mom said pray harder than you have ever prayed before. I told my mom I had been praying, but Brooke was already gone. I could feel it. I don't know why, but I just knew. When she came out of the surgery, the doctor said her brain had swelled in the back (where the small fractures were).
The next morning I started thinking about my first day in the ER, and seeing Brooke on the stretcher, and thinking “Thank God I am not one of those parents that had to make the decision to pull my daughters plug.” Well here I was a week later making that plan. I knew I had to be the one to make the decision. I would never forgive her dad if he did. I decided that all of our family and friends should be able to say goodbye first. They had been there with us all week. Two by two I walked everyone in to say good bye. I was waiting on my dad, he was driving from Naples. The nurses said to me “her grandpa better hurry, she is passing away on her own”. My dad was the last one to say good bye. It was like she was waiting for her Poppop to get there.
As I sat there with her, she passed away. I knew her journey was just beginning in heaven and my journey wasn't going to be easy here. I never got the chance to tell my daughter “Happy 18th Birthday”.
Did you know my daughter was an organ donor? She has been able to help a grandparent see their grandchild. She helped burn victims with her skin cells, leukemia patients with her bone marrow, her heart was able to help someone who desperately needed one, and so many more.
She loved her family; her grandparents, her siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins and her friends.
She would of loved being an aunt and would of adored her nieces Peyton Brooke and Remington Brooke and nephew Maddox, who never met her but know all about her and keep her legacy alive!
When I left the hospital that day, I was in a fog. I remember a breeze in the air. Little did I know what my life would now be.
Not a day goes by that I don't wish my daughter was here. But I know she is in a better place and I will see her again.
The big picture is about my daughter, my family and what we have gone thru to get to where we are now.
I feel as if God sent this rescue to me to help me get thru a tragedy in my life and make a difference for these animals: the second chance Brooke didn't have.
I have been doing this now for 17 years. I have researched and worked with a lot of other rescues. I pick and choose the ideas that I feel work the best. We learn and we grow together. We have guidelines to follow and a board of directors to keep us all on track. I appreciate all the efforts so many of you put in to make the rescue succeed! Thank you! Together we have made Brooke’s Legacy become a very well known organization in our community. We have been nominated and awarded many times. We should all be proud! I know I am.
As I close, I want to say THANK YOU to all of you who help and make a difference!
Brooke's Legacy Animal Rescue Founder/Brooke's mom
TO THE WORLD YOU ARE JUST A PERSON, TO A RESCUED PET YOU ARE THE WORLD!