Loving girl will be missed by those she touched

By Hank Baskett III

Growing up in Clovis, I learned it takes a community to raise a child.

I still believe that. There are countless people who helped shape me to be the man I am today.

But sometimes it’s not always the community that raises the child. In special cases it’s a child that raises the community.

Last week, I lost a special little girl who has been near and dear to not only my heart but all of those who were blessed to meet her.

Brooke Hankins, 23, passed away Tuesday and it hit me hard.

2010 CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo   Brooke Hankins of Clovis embraces Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman after she was named an honorary fire fighter Saturday at the Department’s Station 1.

2010 CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo
Brooke Hankins of Clovis embraces Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman after she was named an honorary fire fighter in 2010 at the department’s Station 1.

I first met Brooke when I met her father, Mike “Hankdogg” Hankins. Those were the days of my afro.

All Brooke wanted to do was touch my hair and play with it. I never knew anything other than to bend down and let her do as she pleased.

The joy she got from just playing with my ’fro always put a smile on my face and in my heart.

Over time, Coach Hankins went from a coach to a best friend to a father figure to me. Not discrediting my pops whatsoever. Hank Sr. will forever be the greatest man I’ll ever know. Yet, through my track and basketball days at CHS I was able to spend countless hours with Hankdogg, his wife Gena and Brooke.  Brooke would be at all the games, sitting in the crowd enjoying every moment. I would always watch the countless people who would go up and say hi to her.

What really hit home was how many former athletes Coach Hankins coached over the years would stop by and say hello. I knew I was not the only one Brooke had touched.

Coach Hankins and his wife dedicated their lives to ensuring Brooke experienced everything a child should, as any parent would/should do. They were able to teach Brooke so much, but I think it was Brooke who taught us all more.

One thing Brooke taught her father is the 24-hour rule. Coach explained this to me during one of the lowest points of my life. I owe him for those words more than he will ever know.

He said we can’t predict everything but you do have control as to how you react to it.

They never could have predicted the medical complications that Brooke would be born with and have to endure until her final days. The rule is simple:

You have 24 hours to feel sorry for yourself. At the end of that time, you pick yourself up and go on with life. Dwelling on it will not accomplish anything.

Most of what we in society place so much day-to-day stress and sadness on is trivial when it comes to situations like Brooke’s.

Despite all the pain and suffering she had to go through during her life, I never saw her without a smile on her face. Not once.

Those of you fortunate enough to spend time with Brooke, I feel like you can relate. For those who never got to meet her, you missed out on knowing one of the sweetest children I’ve ever met.

To Brooke:

I never really got to say thank you for the way you touched my heart, not just my afro. The pain and suffering is over, sweetheart.

I love you and will forever miss you.

Hank Baskett III offered one final message to his friend: I pray you get to now spend your days in heaven driving, not riding, in the bright yellow Mustang you picked out on your birthday.