Alicia Cockerline didn't know how her daughter would react when she brought her to her church's fall festival last year.

Her daughter, Brooklyn, was born with a condition called congenital cytomegalovirus that left her immobile and nonverbal. As her condition deteriorated, she spent much of 2016 on a ventilator.

Cockerline decided to bring her young daughter to the Blazin' Trails Cowboy Church festival in Lincolnton, though, not knowing how she would react or if she'd even respond well. Instead, Brooklyn glowed.

The girl smiled and laughed her way through a hay ride.

"We got her on there and she absolutely loved it," Cockerline said. "I feel like it changed all our lives that day."

Cockerline knew, though, that she may not have much longer with her daughter. Brooklyn had a feeding tube and a device that helped her with seizures, and her mother couldn't help but be impressed by her remarkable strength and resiliency to get through years of hospital visits and ailments.

Brooklyn's battle ended on March 20, when the girl was just 8 years old.

Coping with grief has been difficult, but Cockerline's faith helps in tough times.

"When she took the last breath here I know she woke up with Jesus... That's the only thing that gets my husband and I through it," Cockerline said. "I'm going to see her again, and she's going to be completely healed."

Helping others

Cockerline often thinks back to that day last fall at her church when Brooklyn's face lit up through her illness.

She knew then that the rodeo-type setup could benefit other special needs children. And when Blazin' Trails pastor Harvey Gates told her the church planned to honor Brooklyn with a festival in her honor, Cockerline became emotional.

"It definitely overwhelmed us and gave us a lot of joy," she said. "I know Brooklyn touched a lot of lives while she was here."

The event, which the church is calling Brooke's Round-up, will feature horse rides, a mechanical bull, a petting zoo and balloons. Gates says he knew he had to have this party after last fall, and funded the event with money raised at a church rodeo this past April.

"I realized we need to change directions," Gates said. "Instead of having an event just to have fun we needed to help the community."

Gates reached out to Special Olympics and other groups to invite people to the free round-up, to be held at the church from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday. Medical workers who helped Brooklyn will be there to see Cockerline and her family.

Not a lot of events are planned specifically for special needs children, Cockerline said. She hopes the event can celebrate the battles they fight and the resiliency they show.

"I think the big thing with the event is giving back to family and kids and adults that don't have all this stuff for them," she said. "This is for them."

 

Adam Lawson can be reached at 704-869-1842 or on Twitter @GazetteLawson.