April 12 is a date that will forever be remembered by friends and family of 26-year-old Turlock native Brandon Koch. It was the day he lost his battle with adrenocortical cancer a year ago, and also the day the Turlock Skate Park was renamed in his honor.
On Friday, over one hundred friends and family of Koch gathered to celebrate his spirit at the Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park dedication. Dozens of friends showed their love and support by sporting shirts with Koch's image printed on them and came to the park with skateboards in hand to celebrate his memory in the best way possible.
“We will always keep Brandon in our hearts,” said George Fagundes, a close friend to Koch. “I feel hopeful that I can come back to this place and skate in honor of my best friend.”
City Council members and Parks and Recreation officials showed their support by heralding the newly-renamed park during the ceremony. A decorative monument was placed in front of the skate park with a special skateboard plaque made by longtime friend Kameron Schumann.
“The granite is sparkling and shiny just like his personality,” said Koch’s aunt, Judith Suliman.
Last year, Koch’s aunt started a community wide petition in support of renaming the park. Over 1,000 signatures were gathered and various fundraisers were held to raise the necessary funds to make Suliman's dream a reality.
“This moment is very surreal. I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet,” said Suliman on Friday. “This process started months ago and all the stress of making this memorial park happen has finally paid off. We could not have done this without the help and support of the community and the various donations we received.”
The Koch family received donations from Boulders Unlimited and Gateway Memorials to create the monument.
In May 2011, Brandon was diagnosed with adrenocortical carcinoma, a rare cancer of the adrenal gland. By November of that same year, the cancer had spread to the outside of many of his organs which left no hope for the 26-year-old.
“He suffered greatly as his body was consumed by the cancer, but he never showed self-pity,” said Suliman. “It was on one of my visits, after the oncologist said there was nothing more they could do, that I sat at his side and thought, no way will I allow him to be forgotten. I asked him if he would like the Turlock Skate Park renamed the Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park. He gave me a sideways glance and chuckled. I told him I was serious and he said, 'If you can do it auntie, it would be really nice. I'd like that.' I replied, 'I promise you, I will do it.'"