Brody strong forever
Written by Elizabeth Harris
Brody Wallace Stevens, age 8, was a standout in New Palestine, but also in the hearts of those he touched- nurses, basketball stars, and strangers from across the country alike.
“I have never been so honored to ever be a part of anyone’s world as much as I am Brody. That makes me so thankful for the 2 years I had with him,” close family friend and NPHS sophomore Natalie Cramer said.
Brody was known by family and friends as a boy with a spunky, one-of-a-kind personality, he made it easy for people to look past his difficulties and see the mischievous boy that remained within.
“I just look back and I see the Brody that I knew all along and I see the Brody who was sick but I think the Brody who was silly and liked to trash-talk his brothers about March Madness- he was there and I will never forget that boy,” Cramer said.
The silly Brody shined through in small ways even when he was feeling his worst.
“We were playing (NBA)2K on the XBox and I’d never played before so we’d sit down and he’d always would tell me the wrong buttons so that I would always do the wrong thing. Whenever I would ask him again he would give me a different order. That was just Brody. He was just full of things like that,” Cramer said.
In the winter of 2015, Brody started to get sick again, after nearly five years in remission.
“He just stopped being that athletic boy we knew. When he asked to come out to sit down after only playing basketball five minutes, that’s when his parents knew something was wrong. Brody never comes out,” Cramer said
Word got out that Brody was sick again and some of his neighbors started a prayer circle outside the Stephens’ house when they were at the hospital.
“And on the night that they went to get the results, no matter how bad it seemed, we knew it was an easy battle because Brody was the one fighting it,” Cramer said
As a result, Brody’s passing because of viral complications came as a shock to a lot of people.
“I never thought death was an option especially when it came to Brody. It was either fight it or win it,” Cramer said.
Brody’s parents made a statement the date of his passing on their public Facebook page “Bubbles for Brody” and they wanted to make the following clear:
“It is important to us and for all of you to know that Brody beat leukemia twice. He is and forever will be 2 wins and 0 losses against leukemia. Brody fought a very hard battle and has taught all of us about tenacity, courage, grace, and hope,” the statement said.
The Stephens also thanked everyone for the support and fundraising that was done for brody- the first of numerous started by Natalie Cramer shortly after Brody was re-diagnosed around November of 2015. She originally just wanted to have some of the high schoolers make cards or write notes to Brody. But when her friend Celina Williams directed her to NPHS business teacher Jeremy Large, he was immediately enthusiastic about the project.
“He said ‘not only do I have cards for you already’ – and he had like six in his hand – ‘but I want to do other projects’- like making posters of his favorite athletes – and I was just amazed that it happened that quickly.” Cramer said.
Large showed to be a large part of the fundraising, especially in the beginning.
“I think (Brody) brings out the best in everyone. Just seeing him try to persevere through all his troubles brought the best out of the community.” Large said.
One of the more notable events – before the story accumulated national coverage – was a basketball game in February 2016 that was completely themed around Brody and his family.
There were several fundraisers that night to help the Stephens family that collectively raised over $8000, and Brody’s brothers were the ball boys of the game.
“Mr. Wright came up to me after the game and he said ‘I have never seen a crowd this big before’ and that just shows you who Brody was,” Cramer said.
But that was only the beginning of Brody’s illustrious career.
“He went from just being the star of a basketball game in tiny New Pal to making an impact on people like Steph Curry and all these people who are widely known,” Cramer said.
Brody’s fame began when he co-starred on a podcast led by Dan Dakich – an Indianapolis-based basketball sportscaster and radio host in addition to former player and coach.
“He’d always be wearing his (Golden State) Warriors gear,” Cramer said.
Eventually Brody’s story spread all across Indianapolis.
One of Brody’s nurses had a connection to Steve Kerr, the head coach of Brody’s favorite basketball team the Golden State Warriors, and helped Brody write a letter to Kerr. Kerr responded with Warriors shoes, shirts, and other themed paraphernalia.
Shortly after that was when Brody got Steph Curry’s attention.
After some convincing, Curry visited Brody while he was in Indianapolis.
“And it may not look like it (in the video), but it was the happiest moment of (Brody’s) life. He was literally at a loss for words.” Cramer said.
All the attention he was getting didn’t change his opinions on certain teams and players, though.
“Lebron James heard about Brody and he wrote a letter to (Brody). And we all told him ‘this is a big deal, an NBA player writing you a letter’ and he said ‘well, it’s okay i guess’ he was just like ‘I do not like (James)’. We tried to convince him how special he was and Brody just said ‘Steph’s better.’”
Even the nationwide coverage didn’t keep him from appreciating the love he got at home.
“Once he got a letter from Nick Brickens (New Palestine football player who graduated in 2016) and he just kept saying ‘Nick Brickens? The football player?’ and that really encouraged him.” Cramer said.
The Stephens family requested privacy on “Bubbles for Brody” after the recent events, but on their behalf, Cramer thanked some of the key people who supported Brody.
“Thank you to Mr. Large especially, for the way he helped support Brody I can just see how much he loves him. And I’m not even sure if he ever actually met him. Thank you to everyone for not giving up on him. It wasn’t just a phase, it was a continuous fight wherein he was continuously supported by his community. We say Brody never gave up but that was really helped by the people who supported him.”
The town of New Palestine has planned Brody’s Celebration of Life at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7 in the New Palestine High School gymnasium. All are welcome, there will be additional seating in the auxiliary gymnasium and auditorium.
Alternative to flowers, the Stephens family has asked that donations be made in Brody’s name to the Riley Children’s Foundation for the Child Life Department or the HCCF-Brody Strong Memorial Fund, which helps provide educational assistance for kids facing adversities.
In the wake of his passing, Cramer asked the following of the members of Brody’s community.
“Remember him. Remember what he did. Right now life is tough but remember how he lived: he lived fighting and he lived strong and he lived always saying ‘we got this.’ No matter where you’re at in life- just fight like Brody did.”