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By Brenda Shepard, Winnachronicle Staff

Special to 21 Voices

Atlantic News, Friday, September 29, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

SEE YOU SOON —- Brooke Rallis (pictured) has improved dramatically after suffering a neck injury this summer. She can now walk with assistance.
[Atlantic News Photo Courtesy of Allix Rashid/Winnachronicle]

HAMPTON — As Winnacunnet teachers, staff and students geared up for the new school year, not every member of the senior class was returning to the hallways.

This summer, Brooke Rallis was forced to test her mind, body and spirit in rehabilitation as she combats an injury that left her almost entirely paralyzed.

“This has been the hardest thing that I have ever gone through in my life. It is very hard being away from home, but I have had great support from family, friends and even people that I don’t know very well. I really appreciate all of it,” said Brooke, who is now able to walk with the aid of a walker, and moved into a manual wheelchair.

Now located at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, PA, Brooke has all the tools, support and the right attitude to carry her toward recovery.

Like most other high school students, Brooke was working a summer job for the Hampton Recreation Department this past summer when she took a fall onto her stomach, at which time she over-extended her neck and tore a vein which then resulted in a slow leak of blood. It wasn’t until later that day that she realized that something was devastatingly wrong. Immediately she was taken to Boston Children’s Hospital and was put onto a ventilator and tracheotomy tube.

At this point, she wasn’t moving at all. Doctors came to the conclusion through an MRI that the leak was affecting her C1 through C7 vertebrae in her spine. The harsh prognosis was that Brooke, a young, spirited and perpetually cheerful individual, would never move again.

Those who know her, recognize that Brooke is a fighter, unwilling to be held back by any challenge, big or small. Her parents Karen and Geoff, tried to maintain that same spirit of never allowing themselves or Brooke to give up hope. Through constant prayer and an inexhaustible faith in God, it took only three weeks for Brooke to move her hand. Though doctors remained “cautiously optimistic,” friends and family knew that this was only the first step towards Brooke taking her first step again.

Students seemed both heartbroken and shocked.

“I was devastated, I couldn’t believe that something that horrible could happen to somebody as mild mannered as Brooke, but she has so much inner strength and has proven to be tougher than anyone that I know,” said Emily Jefferson.

Though most could not visit Brooke, hundreds sent cards and letters telling Brooke that she was missed and loved. Many students even expressed their hopes for Brooke by putting “Brooke — stay strong” into their profiles on AOL Instant Messenger.

It was clear that Brooke had support and love not only from her family, but the entire community as well. It wasn’t long before a committee rallied together at Rush Realty to think of fundraising ideas and ways that they could all help Brooke and her family in their time of need.

Allix Rashid has been attending meetings alongside other adults who care deeply about Brooke’s well-being.

“Kathy Rush knew there were a lot of people that wanted to help the Rallises so she set up a meeting to begin brainstorming ideas. Eight to 20 people would show up to the meetings to plan events every week, but there are many other volunteers involved as well,” said Rashid.

There has been much discussion about different fundraisers that are going to be done for Brooke and her family. The cost of an electric wheelchair is $28,000, whereas a manual one can cost up to $625 or more. The price is for only one wheelchair, which will then need to be replaced every few years. The Rallises will also have to redo their house so that it is completely wheelchair accessible.

All of these things, plus the cost of Brooke’s stay at each of the hospitals adds up very quickly. Some fundraisers include a walk-a-thon and the selling of lanyards or T-shirts to students and faculty at the school. A comedic-hypnotist, Steve Wronker, is coming to Winnacunnet on the evening of Thursday, October 19 from 6:30-9 p.m. at the WHS auditorium. There is also a pancake breakfast on Saturday, September 30 from 7:30-10 a.m. as well as a “Day for Brooke Family Picnic and Silent Auction,” 1-5 p.m. at Stratham Hill Park. Everyone is encouraged to come and show support and participate in all of the fundraisers.

Shortly before her 17th birthday, Brooke gave her mother a surprise when her mother, Karen Rallis, returned to Philadelphia after a quick trip home. Brooke is not only moving, but is able to walk around the hospital using a walker for support. Now off the ventilator completely, Brooke’s closest friends and family went to visit her to celebrate her 17th birthday on September 8, and to keep her company while she goes through the long recovery.

“I want to thank the field hockey team for the picture, and everyone that took the time to sign the cards. I am working really hard to get back as soon as possible. See you all soon,” said Rallis.

Brooke’s courage along with her family’s faith should teach the rest of us a lesson: nothing is impossible. If you want something badly enough, and have the constitution to keep reaching toward that goal, nothing can get in your way.

(Editor’s Note: Cards, letters and good wishes may be sent to Brooke Rallis c/o Shriners Hospital for Children, 3551 N. Broad St., Room 528-A, Philadelphia, PA 19140.)

Family Events Support Hampton Teen

By Liz Premo, Editor, 21 Voices

Atlantic News, Friday, September 29, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

HAMPTON — There’s a number of fundraisers planned to help support Brooke Rallis and her family while she recovers from the injury she suffered this past summer.

First up there will be a “Breakfast for Brooke” on Saturday, September 30 from 7:30-10 a.m. at the Hampton Methodist Church, located on Lafayette Road. The cost to enjoy the breakfast will be $5 at the door; children under age 10 eat free.

Later the same day, there will be a family picnic and silent auction from 1-5 p.m. at Stratham Hill Park in Stratham. Great food, a silent auction, kids’ activities, cash raffles and a DJ will all be part of the fun. The cost to take part in this worthy community event is $20 for adults (children under age 12 are admitted free).

Pledge cards are currently available for folks to take part in a “Walk for Brooke Walk-A-Thon,” happening on Sunday, October 1 from 12-3 p.m. The event will take place at the outdoor track field behind WHS from 12-3 p.m.

To obtain tickets for the family picnic or pledge cards for the Walk-A-Thon, or for more information about any of these events, call Jeannine Derba at (603) 918-0152.

Finally, get ready to laugh like never before when Steve “The Hypnotist” Wronker performs in a benefit for the Brooke J. Rallis Foundation on Thursday, October 19 at the Winnacunnet Community Auditorium. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and chances to win raffles will be available. Advance tickets are $15 and are available at Les’ Barber Shop or by calling (603) 929-0912, or at the door on the night of the performance.

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