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The City Journals

Murray family raises money for organ donations and... music lessons?

Apr 29, 2019 09:24AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Brock Butler, second from right, performs with his band. His family has set up a fund to honor his memory by providing grants for children to take music lessons. (Photo courtesy Lori Haglund)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

There’s a desperate feeling that comes while waiting for an organ donation. The Haglunds know the feeling all too well. Since he was 10, Rick and Lori’s 21-year-old son, Brock Butler, had been battling an autoimmune disease that affects the liver called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC); its only resolve is a liver transplant. Eight days after his birthday in 2012, Brock died waiting for a transplant.

While Brock’s family journeyed through their grief, they decided to do something positive in Brock’s memory and create the BrockStrong Foundation. Lori Haglund explained: “We raise money to provide private music lessons for children who could not otherwise afford it, and we are also trying to raise awareness of the need for organ donation.”

Organ donation and music lessons seem like an unusual pairing, but it makes sense once you understand Brock. Growing up, he could only dream of playing music, as his single mother was not able to afford lessons. When she remarried, his family finally had the means for music lessons.

“He learned music—playing saxophone in the Cottonwood High band and guitar in bands with his brother and friends. He loved spending time with his friends and family…and chasing girls,” Lori said. “Brock graduated from Cottonwood High and enrolled at Salt Lake Community College with an honors-at-entrance scholarship, thinking at first that he would be an engineer.”

Around the time Brock graduated from high school, his health took a turn for the worse. His care transferred from Primary Children’s Hospital to Intermountain Medical Center, and his name was added to the transplant waiting list. In September 2012, Brock celebrated his 21st birthday in the Intensive Care Unit, where one nurse even brought in a birthday cake decorated like a liver. In spite of the attention of skilled and compassionate doctors and nurses, who fought around the clock to keep Brock alive until a suitable liver could be found, Brock could not wait one more day. 

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 20 people on the transplant waiting list die every day, and there are 113,000 people currently on the list; every 10 minutes, a new person is added. 

“That next spring (after Brock’s death), the receptionist at my office was planning a get-healthy 5K run for our team and proposed that we turn it into a fundraiser and donate money to Intermountain Donor Services. I guess that’s what really got me thinking about establishing a foundation,” explained Lori.

The BrockStrong 5K Fun Run/Walk is scheduled for June 9 at Wheeler Farm. In addition to the fun run, the foundation is also hosting the BrockStrong Music Festival on August 24.

“The 5K attracts some amazing sponsors and donors, and on race day hundreds of people show up to support us. It’s a fun family-friendly event that includes live music at the finish line and a raffle and silent auction. The student band at the finish line will feature two BrockStrong grant recipients,” Lori noted.

The theme of this year’s event is superheroes, as Brock, in the throes of his disease, would wear a spandex Captain America costume “…every chance he could. For a time, he spent every cent that he made on superhero comic books. We realize now that, maybe, it was a metaphor for his fight with PSC,” Lori said.

This year’s music festival will be held at Haglund’s Ranch at 1575 E. Vine Street. The lineup includes Band on the Moon – four talented musicians who learned and played music with Brock at Wasatch Music Coaching Academy; BlackSheep – a father/sons band led by Steve Shepherd, a former music jammer with Brock; The Disgusting Brothers – including Dr. Ray Thomason, a transplant surgeon who cared for Brock at the hospital; and Dusty Boxcars – featuring a teacher from Cottonwood High School on guitar and vocals.

Over the last year, eight children received BrockStrong grants and took music lessons. More information about the BrockStrong Foundation can be found online at www.brockstrong.org. To learn more about becoming an organ donor, visit www.yesutah.org.