Brandon James Cook
In January of 2003 Jim and Tamara Cook's 14-year-old son, Brandon, asked to go to Honduras with the church youth group. That summer Brandon and his dad visited Honduras for the first time. That initial request would lead to what Heart4Children is today. Brandon returned to Honduras at least once every year thereafter, and spent the better part of several summers serving at Ninos de la Luz boys home and the surrounding villages.
Over the years, Brandon became a well known figure in the villages of Armenia Bonito and Las Rodas. He could be seen most mornings pushing a wheel barrel loaded with tools and supplies to work on a project in the village. In the afternoons, he would be seen with kids on his shoulders and a line following him to the favorite local swimming hole. He played a major role in the lives of many people in the villages including his Honduran grandmother, Theodora. Brandon was instrumental in building her house and painting it the light blue color she wanted. He spent hours in conversation with her over what he called the best coffee in Honduras, which she lovingly cooked for him over her open stove.
He worked long hours helping build the Ninos de la Luz School and working on other projects at the boys home. He developed close relationships with the boys who live in the home, and they considered him their brother. His little “brother,” Cesar, became Jim and Tamara’s godson.
Brandon carried his passions for education and sports with him to Honduras, teaching the boys to play American football and to use proper weight lifting techniques. His love of learning caused him to push his Honduran friends to excel in school. He set the example by maintaining excellent grades throughout high school and at Rice University, as a double major in Math and Physics. Brandon realized education was the key to giving young people a better future and the chance to break out of the poverty their families have known for generations. This knowledge drove him to push his father to begin aggressively trying to raise funds for Heart4Children’s first university student, Antonio Menacol (see Antonio’s story in video below). As of 2011, Heart4Children helps provide education funds for five boys in university, three students in technical school or high school, and over 100 students at Ninos de la Luz Elementary School.
On August 28, 2009, Brandon’s life would take a turn that would forever change him, his family, and those who love him. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, typically a very treatable cancer. Over the next year and a half, Brandon endured multiple chemo therapy treatment regimens, a stem cell transplant, radiation, experimental treatments, and initial T-cell therapy preparation. All this time, he continued his studies at Rice University, worked out, and supported the work of Heart4Children. On January 7, 2011, at the age of 21, surrounded by friends and his family at Houston Methodist Hospital ICU, Brandon completed his battle with cancer.
Brandon wanted his body donated to the science education world he loved. Over 800 people attended his memorial service, many of whom made donations to Heart4Children in lieu of flowers. Today, the Brandon Cook Memorial Fund has brought in nearly $55,000 which will continue to support education and projects in Honduras.
Brandon is no longer with us in building Heart4Children, but his life left a lasting impact that continues to encourage others to join the vision of educating the most needy by giving from the abundant blessings we have to impact others.