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Brandon’s Champions donates $12,500 to Aspirus for bike safety initiatives

Mar 19, 2014

WAUSAU, Wis. – More than 10 years ago the family of Brandon Fochs turned a personal tragedy into an opportunity to help others, and they’ve been doing so ever since.

The family recently made a $12,500 gift to the Aspirus Health Foundation from its non-profit organization called Brandon’s Champions, which is dedicated to bicycle and helmet safety. The funds will support children’s safety initiatives and provide area youths with bike helmets, bike safety education and identification tags, which could help others avoid an experience like the one the Fochs family went through.

On July 15, 2003, 13-year-old Brandon Fochs, of Appleton, was riding his bike when he was hit by a truck. He survived the crash initially thanks to the helmet he was wearing, but he suffered major injuries. He also had no identification with him, so his family was unaware he had been in an accident because emergency responders had no way of knowing who to contact.

When Brandon failed to return home from his bike ride in a reasonable amount of time, his parents, Joe and Rose, began searching for him. When they called authorities to report that Brandon was missing, they found out he was in an accident and at an area hospital. Brandon fought for five days before he died from his injuries.

“After the accident we started Brandon’s Champions in his memory to spread the word about the importance of having identification on you so others wouldn’t have to go through what they went through,” said Linda Berna, Brandon’s aunt and godmother. “It’s an important message not just for bikers, but for walkers and skiers too.”

Since its inception in 2003, Brandon’s Champions has given out thousands of identification tags to children, families and organizations. The tags include a slip of paper for personal information that can be placed in or on a bike helmet, or worn around your neck.

“There were several hours between Brandon’s accident and his parents finding out what happened, but carrying an identification tag can prevent that situation from happening to others,” Berna said. “It is also helpful for medical personnel to be able to identify you if you are alone and need care.”

The $12,500 gift to the Aspirus Health Foundation is the last donation from Brandon’s Champions, which also gave a similar gift to Safe Kids Fox Valley in Brandon’s hometown of Appleton. Because of family illnesses and other personal circumstances, the founders of the organization felt that it was time to close Brandon’s Champions and donate the funds to an organization with a similar mission that can carry on future children’s safety initiatives.

“When we started Brandon’s Champions, we set out to reach children through speaking engagements in local schools and to effect changes in our local communities, and I think we’ve exceeded even our own expectations,” Berna said. “It was our way of honoring Brandon and we are confident that Aspirus and Safe Kids Fox Valley will carry on with our passion for promoting bike and helmet safety.”

The Aspirus Health Foundation accepts community gifts through its Partners in Health Giving Society to help support important initiatives aimed at improving health and quality of life for patients and families at Aspirus and people in the communities Aspirus serves. For more information, visit the Aspirus Health Foundation's webpage.