One family is using their personal tragedy to make a difference in the lives of others.
The Brockstrong Foundation is holding their fifth annual Brockstrong Music Festival on Saturday, Aug. 26. The purpose of the festival is to raise money for music lessons for underprivileged kids and raise awareness for organ donation.
Lori Haglund is founder and director of the Brockstrong Foundation. She established the foundation after her son, Brock Butler, passed away at 21 years of age in 2012.
“We saw music bring so much joy in Brock’s life that we thought we wanted to do that for someone else, that it would bring joy to our lives to see that happen because of him,” she says.
Brock battled a disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) from a very young age. PSC is a chronic liver disease that slowly attacks the bile ducts, causing scarring, inflammation and eventual liver failure. Brock died eight days after his 21st birthday, waiting on the transplant list for a new liver.
“I think a big part of [the festival] is that it makes everyone think about organ donation … It’s just kind of the underlying part of it. But it brings music lovers together to think about that,” Lori says.
Every year, the Brockstrong Foundation holds a 5K fun run or one-mile walk, with proceeds going toward tuition payments for the kids in the foundation. Last July, the foundation raised $26,000 alone from the fun run.
Lori’s husband and Brock’s stepfather, Roger Haglund, is one of the Brockstrong Foundation’s directors.
“I think he’d be proud of his mom for the things she’s done to carry on his memory and create a legacy that’s more than just a kid who died without getting a liver transplant,” Roger says.
Brock was an avid comic book fan; “Captain America” and “Spiderman” were among his favorite superheroes. The BrockStrong fun run logo features the iconic Captain America shield with runners emerging through the middle.
“I’m sure that’s what the superhero comic thing was [about]. It was his metaphor for fighting the disease,” Roger says.
Brock attended Salt Lake Community College with hopes of graduating and becoming either an engineer or a math teacher. Brock was quoted as saying, “If there is one thing I do in this life, it would be to teach people to be thankful for what they have instead of dwelling on what they don’t.”
Brock understood the severity of his disease but never allowed it to dictate his outlook on life.
“He lived a lot of life in his 21 years,” Lori says.
Jack Moyes attended music school with Brock in their early teenage years. “He was the perfect friend. Just the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met,” Moyes says. “He was one of a kind, truly.”
Moyes will also be playing with Ruckus Percussion, one of six bands performing at the festival.
“Ever since I can remember when we were 13, our collective dream was to make it big with music and go on tour, get signed to a label and make our living playing music. He and I were always invested in that together.” Moyes says. “He was the glue that kept it together most of the time.”
For prospective students to be accepted into the foundation, the application process requires letters from both the student and a teacher demonstrating an interest in music and parental support, depending on the age of the student. The foundation currently supports seven students.
Daniel, a nine-year-old boy from a refugee family that escaped their home country of Rwanda, is a piano player who has been taking lessons since he was eight.
“No one really knew how it [the foundation] came out when it first started, now it’s this amazing, sort of phoenix from the ashes in a way,” Moyes says. “The best thing that could have come out of his passing is that the foundation brought his family and friends closer together and gives us all a common cause to work for to honor him and his name. It’s a great experience and I love being a part of it.”
Visit the Utah Donor Registry to read Brock’s story and learn more about organ donation.