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Woodstock mother honors late son with fundraiser for underprivileged children

WOODSTOCK – Just months after losing her son to a car crash, Diane Brokaw was left unsure of how to get through the holiday season.

Zachery T. Brokaw, 20, an Eagle Scout and 2013 class salutatorian at Woodstock North High School, was killed in June 2015 on his way to a local Walmart after working several hours at a camp. He and his passenger fell asleep and his car traveled into oncoming traffic. Zach Brokaw was killed instantly and his passenger and the driver of the other vehicle struck were injured.

He had just finished his freshman year at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and was selected to work as a student naturalist with the Cowling Arboretum’s Cole Naturalist Program for the fall.

Motivated by her son’s endless desire to help others less fortunate and her interest in educating others on drowsy driving, Diane Brokaw started Stuff the Stocking for Zach. In its first year, the 2015 event raised $3,000. The proceeds were donated to a local Boy Scout troop so they could attend an outing in her son’s memory.

An estimated 21 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes involve driver fatigue, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. One-third of crashes involving a drowsy driver also result in injuries.

“I want to bring awareness [to the topic] to prevent it from happening to someone else,” Diane Brokaw said.

This year’s fundraiser encompasses three things her son was passionate about: Books, nature and helping others. From a young age, Diane Brokaw said her son enjoyed assisting others in whatever way he could.

In eighth grade, he and a friend raised more than $1,200 for a less fortunate classmate and their sister so they would be able to attend a trip to Washington, D.C., with the rest of their class. As part of his Eagle Scout project, Zach, who was then 16 years old, hosted a youth disabilities awareness fair and expo at Woodstock North High School.

“He did more in his short 20 years of life than a lot of adults do in their entire lives,” Diane Brokaw said. “There was so much more he could have done.”

Monetary donations will be used to purchase children’s books on nature and the environment. All books collected or purchased will be distributed in partnership with the Woodstock Food Pantry to underprivileged children.

So far, Brokaw said she has collected $1,800 and 45 books. The fundraiser runs through the end of December. Brokaw said she plans to continue the fundraiser and recognize a different cause each year.

“If we keep paying it forward we can leave the world a kinder place,” she said.

Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Boy Scout Troop 456, c/o Diane Brokaw, 8912 Route 120, Woodstock, IL 60098. Paypal is also accepted. Those who prefer to donate a new book instead can ship them to the above address or drop them off at Read Between the Lynes, 111 E. Van Buren St.

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