Parents who have endured pain or loss as it relates to their children, are among the strongest people walking the planet. (Ret) NYPD/Port Authority Police Officer and Brothers Before Others member Mike Shanahan and his wife, Jennifer, are two examples of this.
Within barely a three year period, Mike and Jen lost two of their sons, Brendan Brian and Liam Patrick, before the age of two, to the hands of Alpers Disease. In a show of unparalleled strength and love, Mike and Jen decided to turn the loss into something amazing, creating a foundation in their sons’ names.
We recently sat down with Mike in order to get a window into their experience and their charity’s work.
Q: Mike, tell us a little about what motivated you to start the Brendan and Liam Shanahan Foundation.
A: There is something very unnatural about a parent having to bury their child, let alone two. Losses like that leave you searching for some kind of meaning or purpose. My wife and I were determined to not let our sons’ deaths be for nothing. In some way we wanted to give back to the families that had given so much to us in our darkest times and, in doing so, keep Brendan and Liam’s memories alive.
Q: What are your goals with Foundation?
A: There is currently no treatment or cure for Alper’s; So awareness is everything. While focusing on raising awareness, we also try to ease the burdens of families who are coping with the stresses associated with caring for terminally ill children or, God forbid, the loss of a child. Having received so many donations ourselves, we knew firsthand the weight of financial hardship that can result from medical bills and hospitalization. Parents who are trying to make sense of their children suffering shouldn’t be worrying about money.
Q: What’s one of your proudest moments associated with your charity work?
A: Since we started, we have done five golf outings. All in, we raised in the area of $200,000.00. The response from our family, friends and coworkers has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. We’ve been able to apply those donations to so many families in need; bills, renovations and, in some cases, funeral costs. Our proudest singular moment came about six years ago. We were able to donate $5,000.00 to the resource center at Winthrop Hospital (Mineola, NY), where both boys spent countless days. The money was used to buy new laptops, movies, XBox’s and games for the kids in the PICU. Being able to do this is our sons’ names meant more to my family than words can express.
Q: How did you get involved with Brothers Before Others?
A: While still working with the Port Authority, I had heard about a coworker whose newborn daughter was in bad shape down at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His wife had gone out of work just so she could, literally, live at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia and be at their daughter’s bedside around the clock. I took this opportunity to send down some food for him and his family. I know it sounds like nothing to the average person, but take it from me, when you’re in a fight like that, some semblance of normalcy, ESPECIALLY normalcy that you didn’t have to worry about, can be such a lift and means the world. Years later, that same coworker and his wife attended one of our golf outings as a way of saying ‘thank you’. Who knew that, today, that same coworker is actually one of BBO’s board members. Life is funny sometimes. Anyways, seeing how this kid is still paying forward and seeing the work that BBO does for countless people, both on and off the job, is inspiring. How could you not want to team up with them?
There is no road map to navigating grief. The weight, at times, can be crushing. Seeing people like Mike and Jen, not only stand up under that weight, but carry it while doing amazing work for those in need should inspire you all. We’ve heard it said many times before: NEVER underestimate the power one individual has or the impact you can make. In Mike’s own words, “The only reason I’m still breathing is because of the support my wife and I received; mainly from our family, my brothers from the PAPD, the NYPD, the NYPD Football Team and so many others. I’m not here today without all of them.”
Brothers Before Others is proud to have Mike as a member and undoubtedly be collaborating with the Brendan and Liam Shanahan Foundation in the near future.
Brendan Brian Shanahan 3/18/04 – 3/14/05
Liam Patrick Shanahan 9/12/07 – 9/25/08
For More Information on the Brendan and Liam Shanahan Foundation:
For More Information on Alpers Disease:
For More Information on NYU Winthrop Hospital:
For More Information on Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:
For More Information on The Ronald McDonald House Charities: