Brooke Connell, London

Brooke is determined to flourish on every level, making the most of every opportunity she is given.

She works hard, sets high standards for herself and does not let an unpredictable physical condition limit or define her. At age six, Brooke was diagnosed with Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressivea (FOP), a debilitating musculoskeletal condition that affects one in every two million people globally. FOP continuously transforms muscles and connective tissue to bone, permanently fusing joints and restricting movement and as Brooke says, “…turning people into human statues, locking a healthy mind inside an immobilized body.”

Brooke has had to find new ways to do what others take for granted—holding a textbook, scratching an itch, and washing her hair. Brooke trained herself to use her left hand when her right became fused. She successfully graduated with her class despite taking a reduced course load through home instruction for Grade 10, when her hip, leg and ankle ossified, and then taking extra courses and summer school to keep up. As Brooke’s friends gained more independence—starting jobs and getting drivers’ licenses—Brooke lost independence and her world got smaller. “I spent my time adjusting to my new normal of medical appointments, wheelchairs, drug trial travel, PSWs and a myriad of paperwork as I transitioned into adulthood.”

Brooke’s teachers say she is the kind of student every teacher hopes for—she let nothing get in the way of achieving academic success. Mature and passionate, her confident, warm personality draws others to her. She is a natural leader who problem solves with wisdom beyond her years.

Booke is an active volunteer in the community. She volunteers for the Canadian FOP Network and for Thames Valley Children’s Centre, where she is a social media ambassador, and at centre events she provides tech support, serves popcorn and paints faces. Brooke is the first Canadian to enter a clinical drug trial through the University of Pennsylvania, and she says she hopes her example inspires others from the FOP community to participate. In high school Brooke joined the art club and the yearbook committee, and as a member of the charity golf committee she explored online payment methods and credit card processing devices.

Brooke is headed to King’s University College to study Business Management and Organizational Studies, live in residence, become independent, and focus on the career she has always wanted as a Chartered Professional Accountant.