Brandon Brauns was born March 14, 1999 to parents Jeff and Kris Brauns. He was a happy, healthy child filled with curiosity and a sense of adventure.
Like any kid at 4, he had many interests and hobbies starting to take root, such as Legos, airplanes, cars and more. He attended preschool. Like most parents, Jeff and Kris were loving, attentive and excited about their child's future.
Then out the blue, everything changed. Brandon started to have headaches and some vomiting in the mornings. After a few weeks of symptoms and testing, Jeff and Kris heard the words that no parent ever wants to hear: "Your child has cancer." This was in the form of a brain tumor - specifically a large 4th ventricle Ependymoma.
Jeff and Kris were devastated by the news. But that soon turned to resolve and dedication to fight it, and help Brandon live as normally as possible. His first surgeries and treatments began, his blissful, innocent childhood forever changed.
Despite a lot of time in the hospital, Brandon's parents made every attempt to help him still be all he wanted to be: just a kid, like any other kid. Over the years - as much as possible given his condition - he attended school, he played with his friends, and pursued his hobbies. His goal was to become a pilot. His parents took him on several adventures, and taught him a love of sports, with soccer as one of his favorites. He also loved his dogs.
As Brandon got older, he became more aware of the meaning of his condition. Throughout multiple surgeries, numerous doses of radiation and chemoptherapy treatments at various places including Seattle Children's Hospital and St. Jude's, there was hope and cautious optimism. But ultimately, the cancer kept recurring. Brandon fought hard, but on March 20, 2010, he no longer had to fight. He passed away with his parents, family and his dog Jett at his side, leaving his struggles behind. (Read BGF Founder Kris Forth's Mom's Letter to her son, read at his Celebration of Life.)
Brandon wanted to just "be a kid," and while his parents made every attempt to keep that sense of normalcy in his life, he also became something much more than that. By going through this incredible journey, Brandon became an advocate. He developed a level of compassion and courage uncommon in many kids and even adults.
After his diagnosis and in his first stay at the hospital, Brandon was on the receiving end of many gifts to help cheer him up during his chemotherapy. To his parents' amazement, Brandon began to offer his gifts to other children and visitors. Even at the young age of 4, Brandon knew that others were not receiving the same amount of gifts, so he was sure to share as to not leave anyone out.
Brandon’s mom began doing fundraisers to help support other families when their children were diagnosed with cancer. Brandon would work right along side of her, wanting to do as much or more to help another child. Brandon truly loved the feeling of making someone else happy with a gift and support, that he would often be seen after school running a lemonade stand to raise money for Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
At the end of one sale, Brandon had almost $200 to give to Children’s. He asked his mom if this time he could give it to some kids. So with cash in hand, the then 8-year old Brandon gave 2 teenage girls each $100. The smiles on their faces were priceless as was the one on Brandon’s!
Brandon asked his mom, who worked at Skyhawks Sports Academy, to develop a soccer-based fundraiser. Brandon's idea became a soccer clinic for kids, called "Kids Kicking 4 Cancer," which was held for several years.
Brandon was an enthusiastic participant of the annual St. Jude's Radiothon with KMPS 94.1 Seattle. For 6 years, he helped raise funds for one of the hospitals that had helped him so much.
Brandon sought out many other opportunities to help other people - particularly kids with childhood cancer. Brandon through his circumstances wanted to do so much - all on his own accord - and even when he wasn't feeling well.
Brandon’s last year of life was very difficult. He began to lose control of his body and his ability to walk. His cancer was advancing aggressively, taking his childhood along with it. There were days that Brandon did not feel well, and others where he felt just awful. None of this stopped him from still helping others.
Just three months prior to his passing, Brandon organized a toy drive for children that would be in the hospital over Christmas (see video). Brandon and his friends delivered over 400 toys and gifts to Seattle Children's Hospital 4 days prior to Christmas. When asked what he would like for Christmas, Brandon said "for his tumor to go away for good." Brandon wanted his health back for Christmas, and at the same time he spread more love and goodwill than we had ever witnessed.
The annual St. Jude radiothon was less than 1 week prior to Brandon’s death. He was not feeling well, but wanted to be there as he had the previous 5 years. The radiothon in 2010 only received 2 hours from Brandon on each day (much less than prior years), but he left a room full of volunteers wanting to stay longer and work harder on his behalf.
Brandon'sGoal was to beat his cancer and help other kids do the same. We honor his memory by making his goal our own.
The Brandon Effect
Many of the people that met Brandon said that he changed their lives. Some said that he taught them to slow down, nurture their relationships, love those close to you, and don’t take for granted the time you have on this earth, because it could easily end.
Brandon's childhood friends and classmates learned what it's like to help someone with a tough medical condition -- to just be there, to be friends. To not turn away because you don't know what to do or say. They also learned at a young age the spirit of giving, and the importance of fundraising for a cause that gets little attention.
Brandon's parents learned much in their incredible journey as well. Friends of theirs felt it was so amazing to see Kris and Jeff turn outward, and to have the courage to ask for help and rely on friends, family and community. They wrote journal entries to keep their network of supporters informed. It was helpful for everyone.
Brandon's providers, wonderful institutions like Seattle Children's Hospital, Providence Hospice, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, St. Jude's Memphis and more learned more about childhood cancer because of Brandon. Specifically places like Fred Hutchinson CRC, who were donated Brandon's brain tissue to research, are learning so much just from that selfless act alone.
To sum it up, we at BGF believe The Brandon Effect is "turning toward." His life has taught so many people to not turn away - to face that which is daunting, scary, highly emotional - it is tough to see a kid suffering from cancer - and to GIVE what you can - whether it is money, love, friendship, compassion, frequent flyer miles, time to attend an event... and so much more.
What Would Brandon Want?
Now that he is with us in spirit, we wonder what he would want us all to do. Brandon's Goal was to beat his cancer and to help all kids do the same. Meeting that goal first and foremost requires that as many people as possible are aware and knowledgeable about some basic facts. Please learn more about the reality and injustice of childhood cancer on our Fast Facts page.
Brandon would also want his parents, extended family and loved ones to live a life of purpose. That is why the Brandon's Goal Foundation was created. After Brandon passed away, his mom Kris was evaluating her life, as he was her only son. She did not have to wonder or guess what this next chapter in her life would entail; she knew it would be to continue Brandon’s spirit of giving and helping others.
On September 14th of 2010, Kris officially started the Brandon’s Goal Foundation. Upon its inception, Kris said, “I want to live the rest of my life running the Brandon’s Goal Foundation. It is my honor and responsibility to carry on my son’s legacy and goal, 'Changing the Course of Childhood Cancer.' BGF will allow me to take my experience with my son and help others facing the same deadly disease. More importantly, my job will be to talk about my son every day. He was my best friend, my true inspiration and the greatest person I ever knew.”
Brandon's father Jeff also remains active in fundraising and awareness activities dedicated to reducing the impact of childhood cancer, and supports the Brandon's Goal Foundation.