Three years gone, but never forgotten. Late Chattahoochee County High School student Brandon Bourage’s parents still remember everything they loved about the happy boy who blessed 18 years of their lives.
“Happy baby, cheerful all the time, loved friends,” remembers Kathy Bourage as she holds a photo of Brandon as a toddler.
“‘Dad can I…’ No, No, my answer was always no,” laughs Brandon’s dad Ivory Bourage. “But even in that no, he developed such a strong positive attitude.”
Brandon passed away in July of 2015 from a rare form of bone cancer, Osteosarcoma. His parents tell News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton the discovery came after Brandon was injured playing his favorite sport — football.
“I was there when he got hit on the football field, he got off and he was limping, and I said to myself but the hit wasn’t that bad,” Ivory remembers.
“We took him to physical therapy and the nurses noticed he wasn’t getting any better. So they suggested we see the specialist and that’s when they discovered the cancer in his opposite leg,” Kathy says.
“Brandon looked at me and he’s like, mom did he just hit me with the “C” word? And when he said that, the tear’s just started rolling.”
But that’s when Kathy and Ivory Bourage discovered an enormous inner strength within their son.
“Brandon looked at his mama and I and said, hey guys, we can beat this! I don’t even know where he got it from,” Ivory says fondly. “Every now and then sometimes I, you know, I don’t carry that type of positive attitude when it comes at me that negative. I was swayed, but he didn’t.”
“Even his friends would say, Mrs. Bourage why Brandon? His sister said, why Brandon? He’s so good, his friends were like, he’s the best guy, you know this great guy, why Brandon? And Brandon never said why me,” says Kathy.
Unfortunately, the day came when the Bourages had to say goodbye.
“Oh I can remember the date and time, but I hate it. Oh yeah. July 25, 6:05. That’s exactly the time that little machine went, beeeep,” Ivory recalls. “And the nurses said, keep talking to him, because that’s the last thing to go is his hearing. I just watched the machine and said, come on God, not Brandon.”
“He was so… to the end, he kept a smile,” Kathy says tearfully.
Fast forward to 2018, when Chattahoochee County High School’s newest sports coach Winston Johnson heard the story of Brandon Bourage after passing a tree planted near the football field in his honor.
“I inquired about the tree, found out all the information about him, and I said there’s no reason he shouldn’t still be alive here at the school,” Coach Johnson tells News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton.
When it came time for the annual Chattco track and field awards banquet, Coach Johnson says he decided to dedicate an all new honor, the BB3 award, to celebrate Brandon, who was also on the track team and who Coach Johnson says provides a shining example of the school’s motto — One Heartbeat.
“He was a hard worker, he was a leader, he was motivated – he was motivated and he was a motivator – very pursuant of whatever he wanted to do, persevered through everything, and one thing that really I saw through videos that were taken of him and that his family all said is that to the end, he smiled.”
Brandon’s parents say they were floored to hear about the award from Coach Johnson.
“I felt so humbled, like they still remember him! You know, you think of your child, but you never think somebody else is thinking of them,” Kathy says. “And you know, that day I had been thinking of my son, feeling a bit down, but that phone call just made my day.”
In fact the Bourages were so honored, they decided to give back to the school and the community that keeps their son’s spirit alive.
“Little do coach know, we want to back that award with a scholarship,” says Ivory excitedly. “In honor of Brandon, so coach don’t know that yet!”
And it was certainly a surprise, both for Coach Johnson and for the first ever BB3 award recipient, sophomore Jay Evans.
“Oh man, like, I didn’t think I deserved it, honestly. Just because he was such a great person, I don’t see how anybody could be able to emulate him,” Jay says. “It’s very humbling. Like, throughout my life I will always remember this moment and I’ll always try to carry myself like Brandon did.”
The Bourages say they agree there is no one more deserving of the honor than Jay and add they will be happy to continue raising more and more money to add to the scholarship, which they will give for as long as the BB3 award continues.
“Even now, he lives,” Ivory says as a last thought of his son. “I’m holding this interview with you now, Chattco continues to keep him alive. So I guess he did beat the cancer in the end. He won.”