Not many people earn the nickname “Motivated.”
But then again, not many people live life with the passion and intensity that Brandon “Motivated” Cook did.
Despite being born with the congenital disorder spina bifida, Brandon came to a realization early on in life. The disability didn’t own him. He owned the disability. And nothing was going to get in his way. Not the fact he was wheelchair bound. Not the fact he had nine surgeries by the time he was 20. Not the fact that some viewed him as being different.
Some days were tougher than others. He’d begin asking why. But in those times, he always had the words of his mother, Monica, ringing in his ears.
“I told him you have two choices. You can sit around feeling sorry for yourself, or you can get up, get motivated, and do something about it,” said Monica. “I told him ‘can’t’ is not in your vocabulary. You’ll always have struggles. It’s a matter of what you do with those struggles.”
Those words very much defined the rest of Brandon’s life, and no doubt served as a catalyst for him to show the world just what he had.
By age six, he was playing adaptive sports. In high school, he competed in adaptive track and field in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, 1-mile, 2-mile, shot put, discus, and javelin.
As a junior, he was a regional qualifier in the 1-mile with a time of 4:55.
He later continued his education and athletics at Pima Community College and the University of Arizona as a member of the wheelchair track and basketball teams.
He was an avid weight lifter, working out six or seven days a week. At age 20, weighing only 87 pounds, he was maxing 190 pounds on bench press.
His goal was to become part of the USA Paralympics Team in weight lifting.
Life was just starting, but he had lived bigger in his 20 years than many do in a lifetime.
He was well known and well liked. He was strong in his faith.
“He always had a drive, a motivation,” said Monica. “My husband and I always pushed him to be the best person he could be. He didn’t feel sorry for himself, because we never felt sorry for him. We always told him that God put him on this Earth with a disability for a reason.”
On Dec. 28, 2013, Brandon’s time on earth came to an end when he was involved in an accident while riding on an ATV. He died soon thereafter from complications.
But the message he left behind lives on: “Keep going. Don’t live idly. Never let fear get the best of you. Live on your terms. Beat the odds. Make a difference.”
Before he died, Brandon was working to incorporate wheelchair races for the Marana Run walk 2014. Not only will that project be seen through, the race itself is being dedicated to Brandon’s memory.
In Brandon’s wake, the race is more than just a group of people running. It is symbolic of overcoming life’s obstacles, and that’s a message Monica promotes to this day.
“Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something,” she said. “If you have the will, if you have the power, there is always a way.”
For more information on the race, visit www.maranarun.com.