We all want to be remembered for who we are in life, not in death.
Brandon Johnson's family and friends feel it should be no different for him.
In September 2009, Brandon made a decision that forever changed his life and the lives of those who loved him; he committed suicide.
However, instead of dwelling on the moment that took him away, Brandon's family and friends are choosing to celebrate him in a very special manner.
In correlation with Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity and the Johnson family, the Middle Tennessee State University Campus Recreation Intramural Sports Department is holding the inaugural Brandon Johnson Scholarship Fundraising Golf Event on May 2, 2011.
"With the blessing of his family it is an honor for the Campus Recreation Department to host the (event) in memory of such a remarkable young man," Intramural Sports Coordinator David Tippett said.
Hailing from Clarksville, Brandon came to MTSU in 2007 and immediately became involved with ATO and Intramural Sports. A naturally spontaneous and fun-loving person, his mother, Cindy, fondly remembers the phone call she received from Brandon his first day at school.
"(Brandon) had his picture made with Sidney McPhee. He was so excited to call and say 'Guess what, Mom? I'm going to be in the paper with Sidney McPhee… and I was wearing my banana suit!'" Cindy laughed.
Others who knew Brandon, especially his fraternity brothers, also remember him for his sense of humor, love for crazy costumes and knowing no stranger.
"We always point to the goofy costumes he wore to football and basketball games. He would go between his banana suit and tissue box outfit and then his monkey suit," said best friend, fraternity brother and coworker Derrick Harris.
"Brandon got along with everybody. He loved having a good time and he loved being goofy; that was his thing," added ATO brother Ryan Williams. "He had a real strong connection with the rec and the guys that work here."
It was that connection that made joining Brandon's name to an existing scholarship and athletics-based fundraiser a no brainer for Tippett.
"The tournament is something we started when I started the scholarship fund and it's been in the back of my mind to incorporate all of this since things happened … It's about the opportunity to carry on his name and legacy as well as raising suicide awareness and prevention … the more money we raise the more people we can help," he said.
His brothers describe Brandon as being the number one ATO at heart, which explains why the organization has been able to find a true philanthropic purpose since his death.
The fraternity adopted To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people who suffer from addiction, depression, self-injury and suicide.
ATO redirected the focus of its annual Alpha Jam, an event with music, food and fun for the whole family, last year to raise money for the philanthropy. The organization is hoping to eventually incorporate the concert and golf tournament into one grand fundraiser.
"We hope that in the near future this will be the one thing golfers in Murfreesboro will look forward to," ATO brother Peter Ambrosetti said.
And for Brandon's mother Cindy, a social worker who has now dedicated her life to suicide prevention, awareness and survivors' support, she hopes to relieve the negative stigma associated with the subject to focus more on the matter at hand.
"I can only imagine with the personality he had what he could have done had he been here longer. I want people to know that the scholarship is for the qualities that he did possess; the type of person he was when he was alive and not a result of him completing suicide," she said.
Brandon Johnson MTSU Scholarship Golf Fundraiser
Stones River Country Club 1830 Northwest Broad St. Murfreesboro
By: bibmom on 4/24/11
This is a wonderful story, Sarah. I cannot imagine the loss, but think it is so wonderful that the family chooses to celebrate the positive side. I'm calling to volunteer to help.