September 24, 2022
McHenry County | Northwest Herald

McHenry County

Woodstock mom holds sixth annual 'Stuff the Stocking' fundraiser in son’s memory

Giving back and helping others came naturally to Zach Brokaw.

In eighth grade, Zach helped raise $1,200 for a classmate to attend a field trip to Washington, D.C. At 16, for his big Eagle Scout project, he organized an awareness exposition for children with disabilities.

Among other selfless acts, Zach volunteered at local soup kitchens.

"He’s always been very big about helping others," said Woodstock's Diane Brokaw, Zach's mom. "He’s always been generous. He's always been driven."

In June 2015, Zach died when he and a passenger both fell asleep behind the wheel after working many hours at a camp and his car went into oncoming traffic. Zach, who had just finished his freshman year at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, was 20 years old.

That year for Christmas, Diane started a "Stuff the Stocking for Zach" fundraiser in her son's memory and raised $3,000 to send Zach's Boy Scouts troop to indoor skydiving and zip lining outings.

To keep Zach's giving spirit alive, she's been raising money around Christmastime every year since.

Last year, Brokaw raised $12,000 to send hundreds of fourth graders to the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford for the second year in a row. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brokaw decided, all of the money raised this year would be used to share random acts of kindness throughout the community.

All proceeds will go to the “Share the Love” Valentine’s Day weekend giveaway, when Brokaw will surprise people throughout the community with acts of kindness. Gifts and acts of kindness may include flower deliveries to nursing homes, food for families in need, toys for children, money for a full tank of gas, gift cards from local businesses and more.

"Who knows? We may pop up in a restaurant and pick up somebody's tab or give a generous tip to a waitress," Brokaw said. "Just kind of going throughout the community, making people's days. We’re really excited about it."

Brokaw also wants to bring awareness about the dangers of drowsy driving. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, 795 lives were lost in 2017 because of tired drivers.

Brokaw has been a part of support groups with parents of children who have lost their lives because of drowsy driving.

"I always try to mention to people, if you're feeling drowsy, don't try and push through it," Brokaw said. "This is a stressful time of year. People are tired. Pull over, take a 20-minute break or a 10-minute catnap. Try to bring awareness and talk to your children about it."

Brokaw said her goal is to raise $10,000. Each year since starting the fundraiser, the amount of donations and interest has increased, she said. She hopes the random acts of kindness spread throughout the community will spread far.

"Even if it's not a person in financial need, maybe the pick-me-up of a random act of kindness is something that will brighten their day," Brokaw said. "And maybe they will want to pay it forward."

"If anybody knows the name of a family or an individual who could benefit from this, I would be happy to take that information as well."

To donate to fundraiser, send a check to Diane Brokaw at 8912 Route 120, Woodstock, IL 60098, or via Paypal or Zelle at Donations will be accepted through Jan. 10.