Months after her daughter’s death, this mom is coping with grief by spreading happiness.
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Northwestern Mutual

“Brooke was, from 3 months, like the happiest kid I had ever seen in my life,” says Brooke's mom, Amy.

“She had colic the first three months, so I can’t include that time,” she laughs. “But, from that point on, she was so easy, so good. Just happy, happy all the time.”

All images via Amy Stanton Mulford, used with permission.


"She liked everything," says Amy. "She loved trying new things. She loved traveling to new places. We tried to make everything we did an adventure."

Brooke's cheerfulness was remarkable, Amy continues. “She could run into a doorknob with her head and fall back and start laughing. Nothing fazed her at all."

“And none of that changed when she was diagnosed with cancer.”

At age 4, Brooke was diagnosed with an aggressive neuroblastoma — a cancer of the nervous system that started on her adrenal gland and spread throughout her bones. It would make her life exceedingly difficult for the next eight and a half years.

In the spring of 2017, Brooke passed away. But she left behind a legacy of kindness with all the people she touched.

Brooke's uncanny empathy for others lives on in a charity she started to help other kids suffering from cancer.

Brooke and Amy were inspired by their first experience in the emergency room at their local hospital.

"Here I am in the ER with her for I think it was probably like eight hours that day with a 4-year-old who's not feeling well and having absolutely nothing to do," says Amy.

Once she was formally diagnosed, toys and games began flooding in from family and friends — more than they knew what to do with. But Brooke never forgot about the other kids in that hospital without toys of their own.

"We got to thinking — they have so many people donating stuff at the children's hospital. We should do something like this here," Amy says, referring to their local hospital, whose ER didn't have toys or anything to occupy a child.

And just like that, Brooke's Toy Closet was born, with the first donations coming from Brooke herself.

Today, Peninsula Regional still gets donations for the Toy Closet from community members and from The Brooke Mulford Foundation. Through her Toy Closet, Brooke continues to have an uplifting impact on hospitalized children.

With her cancer, Brooke and her mom had plenty to worry about on their own. But they wanted to help others too.

When she created the Toy Closet, Brooke wasn't thinking of herself because that was just her way: When she was in pain, she thought of others who might be too.

"These kids that get stuff from the Toy Closet — hopefully that's the only time they're going to be in the hospital. But it's still not an easy thing. It can be a scary place," says Amy.

"Brooke definitely felt for any kid who had to be in that position because she had to be doing it so often."

Now, Amy copes with her grief by continuing to do the work that Brooke did during her life.

Until the last, Brooke and Amy maintained hope that scientists would find a cure for her cancer. Now, Amy continues to work with the Brooke Mulford Foundation, which was formed to raise funds for neuroblastoma research, in hopes of finding a cure for other families with that same hope. She also works with other organizations dedicated to prevention, research, and finding cures for different pediatric cancers.

Because, for Amy, it's all about paying it forward.

"I hope that's my purpose," she says, "to continue to do these things, to hopefully fulfill what I was put here to do."

Northwestern Mutual worked directly with Brooke and her mom as a sponsor for ALSF and Wonder Capes in hopes of raising funds and awareness for pediatric cancer research and, now, to honor her memory.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

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"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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