arely out of the starting gate of life, Brooklyn Whitmyer
believes one of the reasons God put her on earth is to help people. Those who know the 14-year-old say she has always had a giving heart — even after becoming the victim of an attack.
When Brooklyn heard that her mother’s best friend was in dire financial straits, she wanted to help. She formed Brooklyn’s Bridge of Love in late 2010, a venture in which she makes and sells chocolate-covered pretzel rods to raise money for those in need.
“After she helped my friend I thought that would be the end of it,” said Brooklyn’s mother, Merae. “But it was just the beginning.”
Mom beams when she talks about her daughter. “She is a blessing,” Merae added.
It was near the end of winter, March 2011, a time when gloomy, overcast skies and long nights were giving way to periodic sunshine and hope for warmer days. While Brooklyn, who will be a freshman at Coventry High School this fall, was thinking of the next person she could help, someone else was about to cause her great anguish.
During an overnight visit to a friend’s house, a buddy of her friend’s brother sneaked upstairs to the room in which Brooklyn was sleeping. The 18-year-old, whom she had never met, tried unsuccessfully to rape her — stopping when he was startled by the sound of the friend’s mother using the washroom.
“Brooklyn and her friend had a chance to run down the hall to the mom, and the guy then ran downstairs,” Merae explained.
The young man, who pleaded guilty to a third-degree misdemeanor for sexual assault, will be listed as a registered sex offender for 15 years.
No one would have blamed her if she had quit the pretzel-making enterprise. Being a teenager is tough enough without having to recover from an assault. She was initially angry, but she refused to let the attack define her. Instead, she counted on God and her family, including dad, Scott; little brother, Scotty; and grandma, Carol Phillips, to help cope.
“I would never commit suicide, but at one point I was just done. My mom, Brooklyn’s Bridge of Love, and others saved me from doing something dumb,” she said. “Brooklyn’s Bridge of Love became an outlet to get my anger out and keep my mind busy.
“After it happened, I thought of not helping people but realized that it’s not just about me. I’ve put myself first too many times.”
Listening to Brooklyn talk, it’s difficult to believe that she is just a young teenager; she sounds more like an adult than most adults, a child who, despite obstacles, is passionate about things like sports — and a love for mankind.
In the past several months, Brooklyn has donated about $2,000 from the sale of pretzels. There have been several beneficiaries, including people battling cancer without insurance, the Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties, an eighth-grade classmate who couldn’t afford to go on a class trip and a family with multiple special needs.
Abby Speer of Hartville has Down syndrome, her father, Bill, has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and her mother, Kathy, also has some health issues. As a result, money has been tight.
Though Kathy had heard that an iPad with apps for those with special needs was a terrific educational tool, they lacked the cash to purchase one.
When Brooklyn learned of the family’s need, she began making additional batches of pretzels. Kathy helped sell the goodies and people often gave far more than the asking price — making it possible to buy the iPad and save the extra for the next person in need.
“Abby is using her iPad every day,” said a cheerful Kathy. “Brooklyn’s pretzels enabled us to open a world up to Abby.”
On a recent sizzling summer evening, Brooklyn and others who belong to the youth group at Cornerstone Methodist Church in Coventry Township met to make chocolate-covered pretzels. Their goal is to raise $1,700 to pay for the drilling of a clean-water well in Haiti — a part of Cornerstone’s ClearBlue Global Water Project.
“We have great group of kids and Brooklyn is one of them,” said Candace Makuh, a youth leader at the church. “They want to serve and do more.
“This [Brooklyn’s Bridge of Love] is a prime example of Brooklyn’s heart and what she wants to do for others — not for credit or money, but because it’s the right thing to do,” Makuh said.
Brooklyn calls her passion to help others “an instinct,” adding that she hopes to continue her pretzel-making enterprise into adulthood.
With a tear streaming down her face, Merae said of her daughter: “I’m in awe. I wish I could be just like her.”
Kim Hone-McMahan can be reached at 330-996-3742 or email@example.com.