‘Those who knew her were better for it’Ridgefield’s Brooke Blake dies at 12
RIDGEFIELD — Brooke Blake, a local girl whose battle with a rare form of brain cancer inspired the town, died Thursday morning. She’d turned 12 in May.
“It is with the heaviest heart that I have to tell you that Brooke has moved on and gained her wings at 8:06 a.m. My heart is broken but I know that she is Home and suffering no longer,” her mother, Madeline Blake, wrote in a Facebook post, asking people to remember Brooke in their prayers.
The Scotts Ridge Middle School student’s four-year struggle against a type of brain cancer called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma prompted numerous fundraisers and shows of support — from teachers babysitting to raise funds, and police and fire departments parading past her house on her birthday, to the “Believe in Brooke” signs visible on roadsides and lawns all over Ridgefield.
People wanted to help. The Ridgefield Rebels girls softball team held fundraisers, farmers markets were turned into fundraisers, and JoyRide of Ridgefield hosted a charity ride for her.
The initial diagnosis came when she was 7 years old.
Brooke’s reaction — and her family’s — was described by Madeline in a Facebook post that used the phrase which came to be seen all over town on signs that became a part of Ridgefield’s landscape.
“On December 31, 2015, the most unimaginable happened. Our Brooke was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, DIPG. For a moment in time, our world stopped,” Madeline said. “But as parents, we had to find the way to move forward and accept this reality. Brooke has been so strong and so much smarter than we thought her 7 years allowed. Since, Brooke has completed 6 weeks of radiation and is back in school for a break before the next step.
“We share this with everyone because the more awareness, the more blessings,” she said. “Please pray bold. Pray for a miracle. Brooke is here for a special journey on this earth. We believe she has so much more to do. Pray Bold! Believe in Brooke!”
Over two years later, in April 2018, another post by her mother offered an update on Brooke’s battle.
“Since the original description of the creation of Believe In Brooke, much has happened. After 4 brain procedures, 3 clinical trials, and 40 rounds of radiation Brooke was sent home to make memories with her family. Knowing deeply in our hearts that we can still fight while making memories, we found hope in Mexico,” Madeline wrote. “In May 2017, we headed to Monterrey, and since then, Brooke has traveled every single month for intra-arterial treatments (4 including immuno-therapy).
This past February, teachers at Scotts Ridge Middle School organized a fundraiser for their student, providing a night of babysitting. Ridgefield parents dropped off 94 kids to be watched, some $5,000 was raised, and Brooke got to be there.
“Brooke was able to attend the event with a never ending smile across her face. She sang, laughed, and limboed across the dance floor,” Leah Hayner, one of the teachers wrote later. “Brooke had a night of well-deserved fun.”
On the day Scotts Ridge lost Brooke Blake, Hayner and three other teachers — Sarah Farina, Emily Sherwill and Kim Van Allsburg — gave Hearst Connecticut Media a statement describing what the student had brought into their lives.
“Although Brooke wasn't able to experience middle school in the typical sense, she was a typical middle schooler — at times witty and other times introspective,” they said. “She had questions we couldn't answer and responses that brought tears to our eyes. Above all, Brooke was a fighter. She dreamed of traveling, eating frosted covered donuts with sprinkles, and surviving cancer.
“Those who knew her were better for it,” they said. “Our heartfelt sympathies go out to her entire family, whose love, strength, and support have been an inspiration to us all.”