Benefits victory brings Brooks family closure

Benefits victory brings Brooks family closure

The Brooks family has finally received closure with the news that the Jim Brooks Jr. bill was passed into law by the state Legislature earlier this month.

After suffering a torn aorta while responding to a fire call in Dresden on May 2, Jim Brooks Jr. became restricted to a wheelchair, only had use of his right arm, and survived three strokes. However, his life came to a tragic end on Sept. 17, 2020.

“We’re able to take care of any outstanding debts that my brother has personally, not just medically,” Kathleen Brooks said about the new law, which covers more than $1 million in medical costs and provides his family a $50,000 death benefit.

The family has been fighting with Benetech for more than a year now and with this law being passed, the family prepares to close this chapter.

”We hope that no one ever has to fight to get the benefit that their firefighter or first responder family member deserves,” Kathleen Brooks said.

The fight was initiated over Benetech denying coverage due to Jim’s torn aorta being a preexisting condition, even though it wasn’t. The July 13 ruling by the Workers’ Compensation Board found the injury to not be preexisting. During the virtual hearing, Brooks and her mother couldn’t hold back their tears.

“We were holding each other’s hand and giving each other these squeezes almost like, ‘are we really hearing what we think we’re hearing right now.’ At the end of the hearing, my mother and I just both looked at each other and cried and laughed. Just a sense of relief and finality came over us and that was very bittersweet,” she said.

In honor of the ruling by the Workers’ Compensation Board, Kathleen is planning an annual event to honor Jim Brooks Jr., called Jim’s Mighty Mettawee Ride. Brooks has planned the event for the Brooks family in celebration of Jim’s life.

“My brother loved getting people together, he loved comradery, laughter, friendship, and he loved the water. So, we are doing on Saturday, Aug. 7, is going to be the first annual Jim’s Mighty Mettawee Ride,” she said.

What the event entails is the Brooks family going out for a day of kayaking, tubing, and canoeing. Brooks is still working out details with things such as shirts and forms of transportation for riders and the kayaks. She also advised that the event is based on invitation in order to keep track of how many people are coming.

“This day will be a celebration of my brother’s life, friendship, and laughter, while providing support to a great cause; the kids of our community!” Kathleen wrote on the events Facebook page.

All proceeds will be donated to Whitehall’s “We Care” program. Because of Jim’s inspiration to constantly give back to the community, Kathleen looked at this event to carry on his love for the Whitehall community.

“The We Care program is based for Whitehall students. My brother was always very active with the kids in the community. Whether it be escorting the winning teams through town or showing off the fire trucks for the kids. He was just very caring for the kids in the community and especially the kids in need,” she said.

Brooks said the program benefits kids in kindergarten through their senior year of high school. Things the program offers includes school supplies and supplying student athletes with what they need for sporting equipment.

“It covers a wide variety of funding and supplies for the kids in the community so they can have these experiences that will affect them for the rest of their lives,” she said.

The Brooks family encourages community members to donate to the program in Jim Brooks Jr.’s name if they are looking to give.

“They can donate to the cause by sending a check made out to the Whitehall PTA and send attention Cheryl Putorti at the store address (155 Broadway, Whitehall, NY 12887),” she said.