Sometimes great things are born of tragedy. Such is the case of the beautiful Sadie Brett Boyer, daughter of Ellen and Bo Boyer and niece of country singer Luke Bryan and his wife Caroline. Brett was just seven months old when she passed away from a congenital heart defect (CHD). Brett had also been diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Ellen says, "One of the most important things is for people to know that we did not lose her because of Down Syndrome, we lost her to CHD."
A congenital heart defect is an abnormality in the heart that develops before birth. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are fewer than 200,000 cases per year and most can and are treated by a medical professional. In Brett's case, as Ellen puts it, "97% of the time, it's a simple fix. We fell in to the 3%."
Ellen continues, "Brett was diagnosed prenatally with both CHD and Down Syndrome. But as soon as she was born we knew that Down Syndrome was nothing to be feared. I was so fiercely protective about it. I didn't want anybody telling us what she could or couldn't do. Don't tell me she's gonna be delayed. Don't tell me she can't. And then I saw this picture of a bumblebee, and it said aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly. But nobody ever told the bumblebee that, so it just keeps on flying. Brett accomplished more in her seven months of life than I have in my whole life, so she did more than I even planned."
Both The Brett Boyer Foundation and Brett's Barn were created in loving memory of the precious seven month old.
Caroline Bryan says, "I started the barn about a month after Brett passed. I was just watching Ellen and my brother grieve and there was nothing I could do. I had made a promise to Brett that I was gonna get her a white pony. It turned in to 23 animals. Most are rescues. We bought a few. We bought a mini llama in honor of a little now seven-year-old boy with CHD."
Ellen adds, "The mission of the barn is a place of healing and light and encouraging people to find happiness through grief because that's certainly what it's been for us. Trying to make something good happen from tragedy."
"It's a place for the kids to come and just be kids," says Caroline. They've had kids from St. Jude, Gigi's Playhouse, and the Down Syndrome Association out to the barn. The barn resides on the Bryan's private property in Franklin, but they have big plans to make it public. Adds Caroline, "We have property across the street. I want to keep it close. We have to have help. It's a full time job."
Brett's color is yellow and her symbol is the bumblebee. Ellen explains, "Before she was really sick, any time she had yellow on, she would just light up. She would glow. It became her signature color. That's when we started saying 'Be bright for Brett.' My husband said he was going to tell Beyonce to move over because there's a new queen bee in town, so then we started just calling her queen bee and it just evolved from there."
The mission of the Brett Boyer foundation is resolute. Ellen discloses, "We constantly say our mission is to support and celebrate. Support CHD and celebrate Down Syndrome because everything about it is good. I didn't realize how much our lives were missing before Down Syndrome became a part of it. How grateful I am to be part of that community."
"I could think of about a thousand things that Ellen has said to me that have made me laugh and cry, but the best thing she ever said was when she said 'I want to support and celebrate.' It's so simple but it's so sincere and that's exactly what we're doing. Supporting families who are going through CHD and celebrating families who have children with Down Syndrome because they are the sweetest most wonderful children," reveals Caroline.
What's been something great to come out of this for Ellen? "Seeing the change. When we first started, I thought maybe in 15-20 years we'll see some change that some families get an option that we didn't have. But it's already happening. There are two projects at Boston Children's that are already at FDA approval. And one of them is a valve that would have saved Brett's life. For me, seeing change so quickly, is wonderful."
She continues, "I feel so full of purpose. Every time I hear her name, I'm so incredibly proud."
For more information, visit BrettsBarn.com and TheBrettBoyerFoundation.org