The outgoing Bowling Green High School senior had countless friends and possessed a unique ability of making everyone feel comfortable around her. When she was 14 years old, her teachers nominated her to travel to Europe as part of the People to People Student Ambassadors Program, which is designed to promote global awareness by introducing students to new cultures.
“There was a girl who was nervous about being away from her family, and Brook took her under her wing and helped her get through it. The girl said she would have never made it in Europe for those 21 days if it weren’t for Brook,” Brook’s dad, Dave, said.
Brook’s mom, Jean, said Brook seamlessly made connections with people from all walks of life.
“She didn’t care who you were, what you looked like, what you did – if she liked you, she liked you, and she would be there for you no matter what,” Jean said.
Brook also made an impact on the softball field. She played on Bowling Green High School’s team and the SGS Magic travel team. With more than 10 years under her belt, Brook’s main position was catcher, but she had the talent to play first base, second base, shortstop and outfield, too.
Dave said he admired Brook’s athletic ability as well as her intelligence.
“She would sit in math class and get upset when her teacher couldn’t get the lesson across to the class,” Dave said. “The teacher would say to Brook, ‘If you can do it better, go ahead,’ and she would. Brook helped her classmates understand it.”
Brook, who planned to major in education at Bowling Green State University, tutored her older brother, Derrik, in math.
Though Brook was book smart, Derrik said she sometimes struggled with common sense.
“She was backing out of the driveway, looked left and right, turned the wheel left so the car went right, and she was looking to the left and screaming. She did it over and over again and couldn’t get why the car wasn’t going left. She didn’t get that, but she would look at my math book and understand everything,” Derrik said.
Brook thought she was smart when she tried to sneak her way into a bigger allowance. She earned money by doing laundry. Since she was paid per load, instead of doing three regular loads, she would spread it out into six small ones, Jean said. It didn’t take long for her parents to catch on.
“She was such a trip!” Jean said.
One night, Brook wanted to go to a friend’s house for a bonfire at 8:30, but Dave told her she couldn’t go because it was too late and too far. The next day, he went to talk to Brook about it, and she said with her palm in the air, “Dad, the discussion is over. I’m done.” Dave wasn’t surprised by that response because he said Brook always had to have the last word.
August 22, 2008, is a date forever engrained in the Petersons. Brook was on her way to meet with her guidance counselor when she got into a car accident and passed away.
But in true Brook fashion, she had the last word. That day, she saved three lives through organ donation.
Jean remembered a conversation she had with Brook when Jean renewed her driver’s license a few months earlier.
“I said no to organ donation, and she said she wanted to be a donor. She asked me why I wouldn’t want to be a donor if it could help someone else out,” Jean said. “That stuck in my head and made the decision to donate a lot easier for me. I’m grateful we had that conversation.”
One year later, the Petersons saw the magnitude that decision had when they met Jim, Brook’s kidney recipient.
“I told Jim I was glad he was doing great, and we were able to see something good come out of something bad,” Dave said.
Dave and Jean had an immediate connection with Jim and felt like they’d known him for years. They keep in contact with Jim, and they consider him a part of their family.
After meeting Jim, the Petersons learned about the Donate Life Transplant Games of America, an Olympic-style competition for transplant recipients. They have attended the Games in honor of Brook since 2010.
“It’s very heartwarming to be able to see people whose lives have been changed and saved because of organ donation. They got so close to death and were able to turn their lives around and do physical activities they couldn’t do before,” Jean said.
Dave and Jean are grateful that their sociable, stubborn, generous daughter continues to make a difference.
“Organ donation gives us something positive to lean on when times get rough,” Jean said. “Brook touched a lot of people.”