'I Will': Brett Ballard
Adversity is no match for the heart and will of a generous young adventurer.
Brett Ballard was always a planner, always putting family first. The first words he said to his mom, Lynn, after the car accident that took his father's life and left him paralyzed from the waist down at age 7 were, "How are we going to live?"
As he fought to heal and regain his strength at Children's Mercy, Brett already decided how he was going to live: fearlessly.
"Nothing ever held him back," says Lynn. "He would go up escalators and down stairs in his wheelchair – he was a daredevil."
Brett continued to live life with remarkable passion and zeal until his unexpected passing at the young age of 27. But even in death, he continues to inspire through his incredible life story … and his philanthropic spirit.
Very privately, which was Brett's way, he made plans to include Children's Mercy in his will. True to his independent nature, he wanted to be in control of his finances. But most of all, he wanted to make sure his family and those organizations he cared about most were provided for.
"We were surprised and very proud when we learned about the bequest Brett left to Children's Mercy," shares Lynn. "After the care Brett received at Children's Mercy as a child, we never received a bill. Brett's gift will help other families going through the same experience we had."
Brett wasn't a millionaire, and his bequest included other organizations in addition to caring for his mother and sister, Blair (a redhead just like her big brother). But his thoughtful planning underscores that a legacy of any amount makes a meaningful difference.
Both Lynn and Blair hope Brett's gift inspires others to plan for the future and appreciate that every act of generosity has a "ripple effect."
"So many people who knew Brett – and lots of people who never met him but knew his story – continue to be inspired by him," says Blair. "I'm sure when people hear of his gift to Children's Mercy, he'll inspire others to pay it forward and do the same thing."
As a young boy, Brett adopted the motto: "I will." With grit and determination, he achieved more in 27 years than many people do in a lifetime.
After graduating from Avila University with a Bachelors degree in Business, he completed his MBA at Rockhurst University. An avid traveler, he toured Europe, parasailed in Hawaii, and took his sister scuba diving in Mexico. He was a regular on the shooting range and trained his beloved Doberman Pinscher, Recon, to respond to commands in German.
Brett will live on in the hearts of his family … and through the legacy of care his generous gift will provide.
Brett passed away on January 25, 2011. Our thoughts are with Lynn, Blair and Brett's entire family as they continue to celebrate his life. We are very grateful to both Lynn and Blair for sharing Brett's story. — Ed.