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Saying her name

Voorhees pond she loved is now dedicated to Brooke Mulford

“Having the pond that Brooke loved so much named after her just means the world to me,” Amy McGladdery said of the township site named for her daughter.

A ceremony off Kirkbride Road in Voorhees last month was the site of a community celebration to dedicate the small body of water there for Brooke Mulford, a township native who died in 2017 after an eight-year-battle with the cancer neuroblastoma.

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The Brooke Mulford Pond is nestled between Heritage Grove condominiums and the Three Ponds Development.

Brooke’s mother, Amy Mulford McGladdery, was part of the pond dedication, along with her neighbor and longtime friend, Dean Kriner, and Mayor Michael Mignogna. She expressed her thanks at the acknowledgment of her daughter’s legacy.

“Having the pond that Brooke loved so much named after her just means the world to me,” McGladdery reflected. “It’s something that every day I will get to walk past and see her name, and know that years from now, when I’m gone as well, that Brooke’s Pond will still be here for all to see.”

It was Kriner who set out to get the pond named for Mulford, who was 12-and-a-half years old when she died.

“She still was and still is a source of inspiration to those who knew of her story,” he noted. Her mom and I became friends and that’s how I learned about her story … Our pond had no name, and I thought it should.”

The pond is owned by ECFA/Associa Mid Atlantic. Kriner worked with Alan Tate from Associa Mid Atlantic, who helped change the name of the pond.

“When I started this, no one knew what I was doing, I asked Mayor Mignogna and the township committee to write a letter of support to support the name change,” Kriner mentioned.

Mignogna led the naming ceremony with a speech that reflected on Mulford’s indomitable spirit and the impact she had on the community. Attendees also included township committee members, close friends and other members of her family.

After the dedication, McGladdery expressed how naming the pond where Mulford spent so much time and enjoyed looking for ducks and other birds is a poignant reminder of her daughter.

“She loved ‘her’ ducks and walking our dog around path with all the ducks following her around like the Pied Piper,” McGladdery remembered. “Some would even let her pet them.”

McGladdery believes her daughter was looking down on the pond ceremony and reminisced about Mulford’s joy for life, love of nature, unwavering faith, silly yet wise personality and passion for the “Pokémon Go” video game.

McGladdery also cited the overwhelming support of the township community during her daughter’s illness. District schools Osage Elementary and Voorhees Middle – both of which Mulford attended – immediately embraced her family. Money and gifts like a bike and a grill poured in.

Township officials organized “Welcome Home Brooke” celebrations after Mulford’s hospital stays, complete with balloons, signs and gifts. In one instance, Osage students and staff – along with the Voorhees police department – created a display with green and red Solo cups to honor her.

Mulford also had a passion for soccer, the result of two seasons with the Voorhees Soccer Association. After she passed, the association partnered with Virtua to establish Brooke’s Toy Closet in the township, fulfilling Mulford’s dream of providing playthings, games and comfort items to children in hospital emergency rooms.

McGladdery finds daily inspiration in how her daughter lived her life: with faith, joy and appreciation, she recalled. Mulford’s journey guided her mother through her own challenges, emphasizing faith over fear.

“Recently, I’ve gone through my own journey with a brain tumor, surgery and radiation,” she noted, “and every step of the way, I found so much strength through the example that she set for me.

“I put my faith before fear – like she did.”

But watching her daughter fight cancer, she remembered, was not easy..

“I had a really difficult time accepting help in the beginning of Brooke’s journey with cancer, and another mom I knew whose child had battled cancer helped me see it in a different light,” McGladdery related. “She (the friend) said then that everyone around me feels helpless and wants to desperately find some way to help in any way, big or small.”

And they did, making meals for McGladdery, running errands and contributing financially.

“We really witnessed the best of humanity during our journey every single day,” McGladdery related. “I’m still in awe of it really. There is so much goodness in the world.” 

Four months before she died, the Camden County Freeholders proclaimed Feb. 16 Brooke Mulford Day. Her mother keeps her memory alive, in part by taking a day off every year to spread kindness to the community and encouraging others to do the same. The Brooke Mulford Foundation – based in Maryland – was started before Mulford died to raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer research.

And now, McGladdery wants Brooke Mulford Pond to be a source of inspiration that will remind people to be motivated by her daughter’s resilience in the face of illness and find the strength to navigate life’s challenges.

“The greatest gift you can give a grieving parent is to say their child’s name, to talk about them, to remember them,” she observed. “This is something that I will treasure always.”

To learn more about Brooke Mulford, visit the Facebook page Blessings for Brooke or visit the Brooke Mulford Foundation page created in her memory at https://brookemulfordfoundation.org/.


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