December 10, 2013
Brooke Harrison – A lot to live up to
By Charlotte Carlaw
Brescia University College embodies leadership and encourages women to be bold and to lead others in a positive and supportive manner. We promote pushing barriers, breaking the glass ceiling, enabling women to be powerful in their own right, and dissolving gender stereotypes. A lot to live up to, but when I sat down and talked with Brooke Harrison, I was reminded of everything that Brescia represents.
Brooke, a 19-year-old first-year Brescia student, is currently studying Community Development. She spent a year studying at King’s University College, but was attracted to Brescia’s “hands-on programs” and the warm and friendly atmosphere.
Despite her age, Brooke has already accomplished more than what some people will in a life time. At merely six years of age, Brooke was confronted with a situation that some adults would not be as equipped to handle. Her five-year-old cousin, Juliana, was diagnosed with leukemia. “I didn’t understand what cancer was. I mean, how do you explain to a six year old what that word entails?” questions Brooke. What started off as a small fundraising project, run out of her parents’ dining room where Brooke collected recipes from friends and family created a cookbook turned into something much larger. Brooke describes how the project grew, and says, “For the first book it was local people, who became involved by donating recipes. When Juliana started her recovery, we decided to make cookbook number two. There were more people who wanted to donate recipes that I met along the way and it became a much larger book. I sent letters asking for recipes to Shania Twain and Anne Murray, and they were nice enough to send in recipes. I even ended up on Breakfast Television in Toronto, and from that emerged a printing company that printed 5,000 copies for us at no cost!”
Juliana, also a first-year student at Brescia, was another reason that Brooke was so excited to study at Brescia since the experience has brought them even closer. “We’re best friends,” explains Brooke.
Brooke’s passion for philanthropy has continued to be an ever-present aspect of her life. “What you give doesn’t compare to the feeling you get back. Just knowing that I made somebody smile makes my day,” says Brooke. Some of her other charitable ventures include creating the first-ever Youth Advisory Council for the Phillip Aziz Hospice Care Centre in Toronto where she, along with some friends, put together Christmas drives and charity golf tournaments. The five golf tournaments alone raised $150,000. Brooke was also the recipient of the Violet Richardson Award for Eastern Canada from the Soroptimist club, an all women’s professional group, in 2012.
Brooke’s most recent endeavor, referred to as the “Native Project”, helps to bridge the financial gap by providing isolated northern Aboriginal communities with new or used bedding, clothing, and books. With help from the North South Partnership for Children, as well as family and friends, she has raised approximately $300,000 in supplies, including the cost of transportation and delivery to the remote area.
Recipient of the Diamond Jubilee award, and Youth in Motion’s top 20 Under 20 award, Brooke Harrison may have already achieved more than most people could dream of, and yet, she is humbled by all the support and help she has received along the way. “The worst people can say is no,” Brooke adds. “I’ve just been really lucky that people just wanted to help me along the way.” Somehow, I think Brooke overestimates the power of luck. Opportunity meeting willingness and vision is probably a more accurate explanation for her achievements. Perhaps, it is those very qualities that make Brescia the perfect fit for someone whose reach extends her grasp.