The Cleburne community is mourning the loss of one of it’s biggest baseball fans.
Ten-year-old Brody Nelson passed away Friday morning after a year and a half long battle with brain cancer.
“Our hearts are heavy and yet rejoicing,” a post on the Fight Like Brody Facebook page reads. “Our precious Brody gained his angel wings this morning! We have no doubt that Jesus himself was standing with his arms spread wide ready for Brody to come running to him!
“We do not have any information right now, we will have details [soon] and will share as soon as they are made.”
The post said a huge celebration of life will be held soon.
“Please continue to cover us in prayer as we figure out this new life,” the post reads. “Also please know we want to hear you talk about Brody. Don’t be afraid to tell us stories. Brody’s legacy will live on in each one of us that loved him, #fightlikebrody”
Brody became a Cleburne favorite as community members rallied around the family to show their support throughout their journey.
“Cleburne ISD is saddened by the passing of this precious Coleman Colt who touched our lives and taught us so much about faith, courage, determination, joy and love of life,” Cleburne ISD Community Relations Director Lisa Magers said. “We are grateful to the Nelson family for giving us the honor of educating their son and allowing us be a part of his life. Brody touched our hearts and inspired us to value and embrace life and to be strong, like Brody, in the struggle. We will keep his family, and the Coleman students and staff in our thoughts and prayers in the days and months ahead.”
Cleburne Chamber of Commerce President Cathy Marchel, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, said Brody has always been an inspiration to her.
“Brody was a special little boy; he has inspired me to not quit and keep going,” she said. “Whenever I couldn’t lift my head off my pillow I thought, ‘If Brody can do this, so can I.’ He is going to keep inspiring me from Heaven.”
Marchel said Brody touched so many hearts in Cleburne.
“He did a lot of special things for people in this community; he brought us together through this horrifically horrible disease,” she said. “He is truly going to be missed, but his legacy is going to continue on. He will always be his hometown hero. I ask that everyone continues to keep his family in their prayers.”
Cleburne Railroaders President John Junker called news of Brody’s passing a sad day for all of Cleburne.
“On behalf of the Cleburne Railroaders our thoughts and prayers are with the Nelson family today,” Junker said. “Brody was a blessing to all of us, our players and our organization.”
Former Railroader Blake Grant-Parks developed a special relationship with Brody last summer while playing in Cleburne.
“Brody’s a fighter,” Parks said, holding back tears. “What can I say? It’s hard to talk about it right now. He was a good hearted kids who loved being around people and baseball.
“We kept in touch after I left the Railroaders and I sent him a jersey from [the Rockland Boulders in New York] and I’m glad I got the chance to do that. He was a great kids and I’ll always have good memories of knowing him.”
Cleburne Fire Chief Scott Lail said he was saddened to learn of Brody’s passing and at a loss for words.
“I’m glad that we at the fire department were able to be involved in Brody’s life in some small way,” Lail said. “I think the sight of the crowds lining Nolan River Road on such short notice when he flew back home is a testament to how much Cleburne cares about Brody and his family and says more about what he meant to Cleburne than I could find words for.”
Cleburne police officer Jacob Niemeyer drove the patrol car leading the procession from the Cleburne Municipal Airport to Brody’s home.
“I’m new to the department and didn’t know Brody other than meeting him briefly,” Niemeyer said. “But I knew of his story and who wouldn’t be moved by that? What I found really touching was seeing the town come together in support that day to line the streets to welcome Brody home. To me that showed the positive side of Cleburne, something we don’t always get to see as officers, and the heart of what this city is all about.”
On Jan. 8, 2018, Brody’s parents couldn’t wake him up for school.
“So we called 911, and they took him straight to [Cook Children’s Medical Center],” said his mother, Courtesy Nelson. “At Cook’s in the ER is when they found the first tumor in his brain. At that time it was only one. It was one monster tumor.”
Doctors had no idea where the tumor came from or how long it had been there, she said. Brody had an 11-hour surgery to remove the plum-sized malignant tumor and also underwent six weeks of radiation treatments.
The community was there to support them from the start.
In February 2018, the Lady Jackets soccer team hosted “Brody Strong Night” where Brody joined the team on the field during player introductions, with team members also wearing “Brody Strong” T-shirts and other green colors, which is his favorite color.
Being one of the Yellow Jackets baseball team’s biggest fans, Brody threw out the first pitch in a game against Crowley in April 2018, with the team raising $10,000 in donations to help him with his medical expenses.
The day before the game, the family received the news that Brody’s tumor was back and growing rapidly, so the game was “hard and special” all at the same time, Courtesy Nelson said. Doctors recommended for them to put Brody on hospice, but she said they wanted to fight the cancer.
The day after the baseball game, the family received a call from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis accepting Brody into a medical trial to treat his condition. When news spread of this trial, the community came to support Brody again.
The baseball team and other residents gave him a send-off of a lifetime with escorts by Cleburne police and fire vehicles down Westhill Drive for treatments at St. Jude. As Brody’s car approached the team, he waved at them as he stood up through the sun roof. The players released green balloons, which floated into the air above the car.
For the first few days of his visit, Brody wore his Cleburne baseball jersey to comfort him. After six weeks at St. Jude, doctors sent him back to Texas with two types of medication. His mom said he was very sick and lost 9 pounds.
Shortly after the family returned, the community came together to host a golf tournament at Cleburne Golf Links that was organized by Jenna’s Journey, a local charity organized by Brody’s relatives; a caravan of Cleburne fire trucks snaked through the parking lot of the golf course to give Brody and his family a trip to Disney World courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation; and Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain also gave Brody a personalized gavel, which included along with it all the honors and privileges of serving as Cleburne’s mayor for a day.
A couple of days after the event, Brody started repeating and mixing his words.
Back at St. Jude, doctors confirmed there were tumors growing in his brain ventricles, with some around his spine, she said. The family made their way to Orlando for their Disney trip, but on the day they were to visit the park Brody became nonresponsive, she said. Doctors confirmed the original tumor had returned but it had grow to the size of a lemon.
They were told to head back to St. Jude, she said, where doctors discovered a mutation in the tumor that could be addressed by a new treatment series known as TRK — or “Star Trek.” For the next couple of months, Brody traveled to St. Jude for treatments.
After the first couple of weeks of treatments, she said they saw a huge change in Brody and were able to take him back home. Friends, family and other community members ready to greet him with open arms.
In September 2018, Cleburne High School Ex-Students Association’s homecoming committee named Brody as the 2018 parade marshal, which made him the youngest parade marshal in the school’s history.
Two local organizations came together to help Brody and his family that same month. Amputee Basketball Invigorated and Heritage Christian Athletics hosted a basketball game for Brody at Smith Middle School to raise money to not only help with any medical/travel expenses the family may have but to also make it a fun night for him and his family.
Giving back was something that had always been on Brody’s mind while he was sick. To keep himself busy during hospital stays, he played with LEGOS and told his mom that every child in the hospital deserves something to play with.
Brody launched “LEGOS for Little Warriors” and donated thousands of LEGO kits to St. Jude, Cook’s, the radiation center where he conducted his treatments and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Johnson County.
The kits were donated to him by many residents and wanted to give them to children who need them the most. Several CHS baseball players accompanied him to Cook’s in November 2018 to deliver the kids.
Brody was also contacted by Dallas Stars Defender John Klingberg with an invitation to join Klinger’s Kids. Klingberg, working with the Dallas Stars Foundation, recently established the Klinger’s Kids project to focus on children with life-threatening illnesses.
Brody’s invitation to become a Klinger’s Kid included the opportunity to attend a Stars practice and a pre-game visit to the team locker room. He also dropped the puck at their “Hockey Fights Cancer Night.”
After traveling back and forth from Memphis for treatments, he returned home in July to be with his family.