When Brook graduated from college in May for 2008, he was expecting the typical graduation day: loved ones celebrating this rite of passage with pictures, reflection, and unbridled optimism. However, this was not to be. His father who was a large, barreled-chested man showed up having lost nearly 40 pounds since Easter break – a mere 7 weeks prior. Brook was to learn that his father had been diagnosed with liver cancer and that the cancer had metastasized to the size of a volleyball and spread to his pancreas.
Brook and his family spent the next three years being caretakers to his father. He experienced firsthand what it was to have a loved one battle cancer with limited resources, all the while trying to balance a fledgling career, be a mentor to two school-aged brothers, and manage a family homebuilding business that had been struck a double blow by both the 2008 financial crisis and his father’s diminished capacity to manage the company.
After a series of recoveries and remissions, his father succumbed to his illness in spring 2011. This experience gave Brook an appreciation for the hardship that illness can plane on a person and their loved ones. The experience was emotionally, physically, and financially taxing. But for a strong support system of friends, relatives, and good health insurance; financial ruin and despair were inevitable.
After his father’s death, a twist of fate found Brook helping to build hospitals as a part of his career. Brook found himself helping out on Inova Fairfax North Tower, Walter Reed Military Medical Center, Various Expansions of John’s Hopkins Campuses in Baltimore, and Inova Women’s and Children’s hospital in Fairfax Virginia. At the Children’s hospital, he came face-to-face with a grim reality: as terrible as his father’s experience was, there people out there who were faced with the same challenge but in much worse scenarios. Some were financially taxed, some has little or no support system, and none were adults.
These children were facing the ultimate challenge not having had the opportunity to graduate high school, build a career, find a partner, and start a family.
Having gained competence in his career and developed some skills, Brook looked for an opportunity to give back. Enter Peyman. Brook and Peyman became fast friends when they met in California, and after Peyman shared his idea, Survivor Squad was formed.