Brennan Passons was the type of girl to enter a room of people she had never met, and make friends instantly.
The bubbly 11-year-old had a certain charm and positivity about her that resonated with people.
"She never met a stranger," said her father, Tim Passons. "Regardless of who a person was, or what they looked like, she always found a way to make them comfortable. She was that kid."
Brennan, a sixth grade student at in Roswell, was a normal child in most ways, with one exception: she had asthma. Along with her brother, Brennan had been diagnosed during her preschool years, though the disease had never really interfered with her life. In fact, there were many friends who never knew Brennan even had asthma.
"It was well-controlled," said her mother, Sarah Passons, noting Brennan was on doctor prescribed medication typical of asthmatics.
So, when Brennan yelled to her parents that she was having trouble breathing on the evening of Oct. 10, 2011 after eating a slice of pizza from a local business the family often frequented, they could have never imagined the loss they would soon face.
Quickly realizing the severity of the asthma attack her daughter was enduring, Sarah put Brennan in the car and raced for the emergency room. But, after seeing her daughter pass out in the backseat, she knew there wasn't time and pulled into the nearest Roswell fire station for help.
Emergency responders did everything they knew to do, but it wasn't enough and Brennan succumbed to the attack. The charming and passionate young girl would never learn to drive, go to prom, have a career or future family. At 11-years-old, Brennan had died of a disease that is often not thought of as very serious.
Shock and dispair don't do justice to the emotions of the Passons family, who were left reeling from the reality their little girl was never coming home.
"It never entered our minds that our children could potentially die [from the disease]," said a heartbroken Sarah.
It's a reality the grieving Passons family hopes no one else has to endure.
In the little more than six months since her death, the Passons have sought to carry on the spirit of Brennan in several ways. Soon after she died, the family set up the Brennan Passons Memorial Fund at Queen of Angels, which helps fund the subjects Brennan, a studious student, loved the most: the arts. All of the funds donated to the memorial go toward her favorite activities including choir, band, art and drama.
Inspired to contribute to the memorial, a friend of Brennan's since they were two-years-old, Reagan Shu, approached the Passons to raise money on his own. They were moved at his thoughtfulness.
"It was something Brennan would have done," said Sarah. "She would have seen what other people were doing and figured out a way to take it to the next level and make it her own."
Dubbing his efforts "Batting for Brennan," Shu, a baseball player, rallied over 60 sponsors who would give money toward the memorial fund for every hit he made and strike he threw.
Because of the funding scale he used, Shu has already raised approximately $6,000 and has the potential to raise around $10,000 all total, said Tim.
It's an idea the Passons may carry on in years to come, allowing more students to get involved and raise money for the memorial fund.
Another area the Passons are moving forward with in Brennan's honor is asthma awareness.
"It’s our goal to raise awareness wherever we can so that another family does not have to endure the pain we have," Tim said.
Still in the infancy stages, the Passons have become part of the leadership for a new asthma coalition within Fulton County. Made up of area leaders, doctors and asthma awareness organizations, the coalition will potentially help educate and fund asthma research and education. Because 10 percent of children and eight percent of adults are living with asthma, the implications of the disease are far reaching.
"Right now we're looking into how far we can take it," said Sarah.
The family is more passionate than ever in their desire to not only educate about asthma in general, but to also make sure emergency responders and medical personnel are properly trained to treat asthma attacks.
"What we unfortunately learned is that she wasn’t treated as an asthmatic, so there were many complications," Sarah said.
The Passons' hope the new coalition is able to help better inform the emergency responders community on the treatment of asthma.
"Every child counts, every person counts," said Sarah.
Brennan's Spirit Lives On
To honor Brennan’s legacy, Queen of Angels has initiated an award that will be presented to one student in the fourth through eighth grades who "exemplifies Brennan’s effervescent personality and tireless efforts to embrace the uniqueness found in each one of us," according to the school's website.
"Middle school teachers overwhelmingly felt that the students who will be recognized continued in Brennan's footsteps all year long, by raising awareness in others of kindness and consideration to all and accepting everyone for who they are," said Sarah. "These are the qualities that the students continually relate to Brenna whenever they speak about her."
This year, the award will actually go to two sixth grade students during a ceremony after Friday morning mass, May 25.
For more information on the award, or to donate to the memorial fund, visit the school's website.