REMEMBERING BROOKE MCPHETERS: A 21ST BIRTHDAY PARTY WITH A TWIST
Las Vegas visitors arrive looking for a life-changing jackpot and otherworldly food and entertainment.
Four years ago, Gary and Shanna McPheters moved here to heal from heartbreak.
They hoped the 3,000-mile distance from Anchorage, Alaska to Henderson, would ease the unrelenting pain of losing their daughter to a drunk driver.
“The crash site,” said Brooke’s mother, Shanna, “was so close to the house and having to drive by it daily was just too difficult.”
They coped with grieving by planning, by any standard, one of the most ambitious, and touching, celebration of life/birthday parties ever scheduled in Las Vegas.
They invited about 30 of Brooke’s schoolmates and friends to join them last week, starting April 1st, what would have been Brooke's 21st birthday.
Brooke and another teen-aged girl were killed August 9, 2013 in Anchorage when a drunk driver struck them while they walked on a sidewalk. Both girls were 15.
The McPheters went all out to honor their daughter. They took a group on a sightseeing tour to Hoover Dam. They rode the High Roller and took thrill rides atop the towering Stratosphere. More than two dozen attended a Vegas Golden Knights game where they saw a Happy Birthday message to Brooke flash on the video board. They took in a performance at the Firelight Barn Theater in Henderson.
On Brooke’s birth date, there was a 3 a.m. trip to a tattoo parlor where Brooke’s ashes were mixed with ink. Almost everyone got a tattoo of a butterfly, including Brooke’s parents. “Just a beautiful way to remember her,” said her mother.
“In her short life, Brooke made her community a better place by combining her love of children, science and animals to become an outstanding community service volunteer,” said her mother. She began “her life of generosity at 8, when she began donating her hair to Locks of Love and did so every other year up to her death. She began volunteering at the Muldoon library, because of her love for books, then at Animal Control, because of her love of animals, at the STARBASE Program and the Imaginarium, because of her love of science and finally at The Children’s Lunchbox, because of her love for children.” She received posthumous awards for her service to the community, including the 2014 Spirit of Youth Award.
She added Las Vegas companies they reached out to “were extremely understanding, extending expiration dates (on gift certificates) and making special arrangements.” Many of the gift certificates were acquired through silent auctions at charity events they support.
Six of the seven schoolmates insisted on paying their own way to Las Vegas, Shanna McPheters said.
In a class assignment, Brooke wrote “it was her goal to make one person happy or smile daily,” her mother said, adding “she exceeded that goal."