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.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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