By Jarrett Branch
A group of about 100 community members, family and friends showed up in force at the Pop Warner Football field in Neptune Township on Thursday evening to celebrate the life of Braeden Bradforth, the 19 year old football player who died of heatstroke at Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kansas last August 1, during his first day of practice as a scholarship player of the school’s team.
“This morning I realized I was in the same building, sitting in the same chair, in the same desk looking at the same phone with the same coworker, when I got that phone call, so for me, it’s still Aug. 1, 2018, said Joanne Atkins-Ingram. With courage and strength, Atkins-Ingram addressed the crowd during a Celebration of Life for her son.
“It’s hard when I talk about him. I still get that sinking feeling in my stomach. I’m still fighting back tears. Since I found out the cause of Braeden untimely death, those tears turned to anger and frustration since external heat stroke can be prevented…It’s our responsibility as parents, coaches and community members.” said Tarig Holman, former NFL player and Neptune High School football coach.
Congressman Chris Smith echoed the same sentiments if when he addressed the crowd.
“Death from exertional heatstroke is preventable…When any athlete suffers for it, well-researched protocols exist that require prompt action to mitigate its impact including death…So, to prevent exertional heatstroke deaths and to honor Braeden, tomorrow, I will introduce legislation called the Braeden Commission – Protect Our Athletes from Exertional Heatstroke,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).
Jill Elaine Greene, Esq, an attorney and family friend assisting Atkins-Ingram, also address the sizeable crowd. Greene in her address to the crowd informed them of how the case was moving along as well as thank those who have helped and gave their support.
“We were able to move forward with information gathered from the Moms of the players. Then Congressman Smith came on board and we are so blessed to have him in our corner. He has been instrumental in gaining ground in our fight for justice for Braeden and his family…What happened to Braeden is wrong and shouldn’t happen to any child,” said Greene.
During Atkins-Ingram address to the crowd, she also gave her thanks to all those who have supported her during this time.
“I’m going to try and get through this but before I can’t I just want to say thank you to everyone who is here and everyone who couldn’t be here and wanted to be here. People have reached to me constantly since this happen given me encouragement and love. Without all of that and the faith we have as a village I don’t know if I can do it. People say to me all the time you are so strong I don’t know how you are doing this but the truth is I’m not strong its all of you standing behind me, that helps me to stand up. Or even get out of bed. I have cried every single day since Aug 1st. 2018. Sometimes they’re good tears, sometimes they’re overwhelming tears and sometimes they’re sad tears. If anyone who follows me on Facebook I try to post things just so someone who hasn’t gone through this experience gets some sort of idea of what it feels like,” said Atkins-Ingram.