In 2005, J.J. ’95 and Emily ’96 DeBrosse lost their 15-week-old daughter, Catherine, to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)—an unexplained condition that affects more than 3,000 families in the United States each year.
“A downside when you lose a child is that there are no milestones,” J.J. says. “She’s not bringing home report cards. She didn’t make the school play. She’s not on the soccer team. Everything just ends.”
Still, her memory lives on. In lieu of flowers, the DeBrosse family established the Catherine Sabrina DeBrosse Scholarship to support female athletes at Butler University. The scholarship has been awarded to more than 15 students since it began, and J.J. and Emily are grateful for the opportunity to bring awareness to SIDS while giving back to a community that holds an important place in their hearts.
“I talk about the Butler family all the time, and I don’t throw that term around loosely, because the Butler family is my family,” says J.J., who has held several roles at his alma mater and currently serves as Director of Graduate and Professional Recruitment in the Lacy School of Business. “That was why, when it came down to how we wanted to remember Cat and make an impact through something that was such a dark moment, we immediately turned to Butler.”
The program is funded by an annual “Count It! For Cat” event in which participants gather pledges before lining up in Hinkle Fieldhouse to shoot 100 free throws. The more shots they make, the more money they raise, and all the funds go directly to the scholarship. Donors have pledged anywhere from $1 to $100 per make. Through years of gifts from donors and shooters alike, the endowment now sits at more than $700,000.
“There are so many people who have had a hand in getting the scholarship to where it’s at. I wish I had the ability to thank all of them personally,” J.J. says. “I have been amazed by the generosity and overwhelmed with gratitude. For us to know that there are so many caring people who are touched by this and who want to make a difference, want to see something good come out of a moment of darkness—that has been a glorious surprise.”
Senior Biology major Gabby Smith first discovered Butler through the soccer program, and she fell in love with the team’s family atmosphere. She has been supported by the Catherine Sabrina DeBrosse Scholarship since her first year on campus.
“When my coach told me I had been nominated and selected, I thought it was cool that a scholarship like this supports women in sports,” Smith says. “I learned more about Cat’s story, and it just hit a spot in my heart. It’s so strong of her parents to be able to put such a hard thing that happened to them into the growth of female athletes and future students.”
All the academic and athletic scholarships Smith received have been valuable to her education, but she says knowing the story and purpose behind the Catherine Sabrina DeBrosse Scholarship has made the experience even more meaningful.
“This scholarship has pushed me to be a better person in and out of my game,” Smith says. “It has given me the ability to earn a great degree at Butler, and I am going to use it to try to give back through medicine.”
Upon graduating in December 2022, Smith plans to attend medical school and possibly study orthopedic surgery. She has torn her own ACL twice while playing soccer, and the care she received throughout inspired her to explore the profession.
“Gabby and all the other young ladies who have received this scholarship have represented Butler incredibly well,” J.J. says. “They are just some of the brightest and most talented students. It’s amazing to see that Cat’s name lives on and is making a difference.”