NFL's Logan Wilson Back In Casper Supporting Coach Who Lost Baby To SIDS

Casper's Logan Wilson was back in town this weekend participating in the Brooks Joshua Memorial Golf Tournament to raise awareness for SIDS. The NFL star's high school coach lost his baby to SIDS eight years ago.

DK
Dale Killingbeck

July 07, 202410 min read

Logan Wilson at this weekend's golf tournament for the foundation started in memory of little Brooks Anderson. Inset, Jamie Anderson gets her son Brooks to laugh. She said her journey of loss has caused her to go deep into the study of grief. She started a blog that has helped other women.
Logan Wilson at this weekend's golf tournament for the foundation started in memory of little Brooks Anderson. Inset, Jamie Anderson gets her son Brooks to laugh. She said her journey of loss has caused her to go deep into the study of grief. She started a blog that has helped other women. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

CASPER — Jamie and Joshua Anderson began a journey nine years ago they wouldn’t wish on anyone.

They lost their 4 1/2-month-old first-born son Brooks on Jan. 28, 2016, to sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS.

“If you lose a spouse, you are a widow. If you lose a parent, you are an orphan, but there is no word in the English language that describes losing a child,” Josh Anderson said. “And that pain I don’t think is replicated by anything else. At least I can’t think of anything worse than what we experienced.”

But their path of loss, grief and pain has galvanized into a mission that has so far provided Seattle-based SIDS researchers with $125,000 to help prevent other families from experiencing their loss.

They also have awarded scholarships to Natrona County high school graduates to pay for their books in college through their Brooks Joshua Anderson Foundation.

And for the ninth year, family and friends, “an army” they said “has their back,” helped them put on the Brooks Joshua Memorial Golf Tournament and Silent Auction this weekend at Paradise Valley Country Club in Casper to honor their son and introduce his story to others.

“He was our first experience of being parent. We have two other boys with us now,” Jamie Anderson said. “We like to say we have three boys, one in heaven and two with us here on earth. Aside from that, you don’t stop parenting when a child dies. Part of our journey has been still being the best parents to him that we can still be even though we don’t get to parent him here on earth.”

‘Truly Saved Me’

One of the closest members of their army of supporters is Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson, a former University of Wyoming and Natrona County High School standout.

Josh Anderson, a member of the NCHS football coaching staff, coached Wilson beginning with his freshman year.

Wilson was among those playing in the tournament Friday and has been a “rock” for Josh Anderson, who continues to serve as one of Natrona County High School’s football coaches. The Andersons have added Wilson to their foundation board.

“He’s one of the handful of people who have held all three of our boys. He came to our house his redshirt freshman year (at University of Wyoming) when Brooks was born, got him a little football, little outfit and stayed and chatted with us,” Josh Anderson said. “After Brooks passed away, he was still in kind of that redshirt freshman mode.

“He would come home frequently in that spring and winter, and his first stop when he would get into town was our house to check on us after Brooks had died.”

Despite his success, Wilson hasn’t lost touch with his former coach and hometown.

“We’ve kind of been there for each other. We had a relationship as kind of a player (to) coach, but that quickly changed,” Josh Anderson said. “Me as the adult and mentor experienced adversity, then this young dude steps into my life and truly saved me.

“In terms of his presence and constantly checking in, he has just been a rock in my life, and I can say the same about me in his. We have just become great friends from a relationship that was not built on that initially.”

Wilson called Josh Anderson one his best friends.

After Brooks died, the linebacker pledged to support his former coach and friend anyway he could to bring awareness to SIDS.

“I told him that I was going to do everything I could to give him my platform to kind of bring a light to their situation and help them raise money and help with all the good stuff that they are doing with their foundation,” he said.

  • Logan Wilson, then a red-shirt freshman at the University of Wyoming, holds baby Brooks. He brought him a football as a gift.
    Logan Wilson, then a red-shirt freshman at the University of Wyoming, holds baby Brooks. He brought him a football as a gift. (Courtesy Josh and Jamie Anderson)
  • The Andersons welcome their newborn Brooks into the world.
    The Andersons welcome their newborn Brooks into the world. (Courtesy Josh and Jamie Anderson)
  • Josh Anderson said after his son died, he was not ready to let him go. He started a foundation with little Brooks Joshua Anderson’s name to keep his memory alive.
    Josh Anderson said after his son died, he was not ready to let him go. He started a foundation with little Brooks Joshua Anderson’s name to keep his memory alive. (Courtesy Josh and Jamie Anderson)
  • The ninth annual Play for Brooks golf tournament included 140 golfers and brought family and friends from out of state and across the state to raise funds to stop SIDS.
    The ninth annual Play for Brooks golf tournament included 140 golfers and brought family and friends from out of state and across the state to raise funds to stop SIDS. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

Special Cleats

Those actions have included promoting the foundation at the annual NFL “My Cause, My Cleats” game where Wilson wears cleats sporting designs supplied by the Anderson’s two younger sons.

Wilson said he values his friendship with the family. Josh Anderson served as a groomsman at Wilson’s wedding a couple of years ago.

“When you come across good people like him, you want to keep him in your life and it was just a tough situation and we just did everything we could just to be there,” Wilson said. “We didn’t necessarily know what to do, what to say in a situation like that and I just tried to be there.”

Josh Anderson announced at this year’s golf tournament that another Cincinnati Bengals player, Ted Karras, reached out to Wilson and said he wanted to help with the foundation, as well.

Now a softball tournament fundraiser featuring NFL players is going to be held in Cincinnati this summer.

The whole idea for a foundation and golf tournament to honor his son came out of Josh Anderson’s grieving process.

“I wasn’t ready for him to be gone after that 4 1/2 months, so the foundation was a way for me to still be his dad and to continue his legacy moving forward,” he said.

Jamie Anderson said while she supported her husband and the foundation idea, her grief journey took her to different places. She describes her firstborn as a “happy baby who just brought such joy and excitement into our world.”

“It was just so fun experiencing those firsts with him, like the first time he smiled and giggled and when he first rolled over and just getting to introduce him to family and friends and make him part of our world was amazing,” she said.

Her physical connection with her son feeding, bathing, cuddling, and then suddenly losing all that left her empty and trying to figure out “how to continue going without my baby with me.”

The Last Day

The day Brooks died was a normal workday for both Andersons — Jamie, who teaches food and cooking classes at CY Middle School and Josh who teaches history and psychology at Natrona County High School.

The couple and baby were up early Jan. 28, 2016, lunches were packed and Brooks was dropped off at his day care provider. That afternoon he stopped breathing. He was rushed to the hospital, where all efforts to revive him failed.

On the website for Anderson’s foundation, playforbrooks.org, the couple wrote about the decision to channel their pain into a foundation to find answers for SIDS.

“We may never know why or how this happened, but it has become our mission to choose faith in God over fear of the unknown. We choose to let God director our energies and us as we move forward to make our terrible pain our new hopeful purpose,” they wrote.

One of the people who understands those words is Linda Fittje.

She was at Friday’s golf tournament and happened to be at the hospital with her husband, Tyrone, when Brooks was born on Sept. 13, 2015. Tyrone, too, is a Natrona County High School football coach and teacher, and they were at the hospital because a relative happened to be a patient there. When they heard the Andersons had their baby, they went to go find them.

Linda Fittje said she got to hold Brooks and sing “happy birthday” to him.

On the day of Brooks’ death, the Fittjes stayed home from work. They take Jan. 28 off every year. It is the day they lost their son, Hunter, at 3 1/2 in a car accident in 2001.

They learned Brooks had stopped breathing at his day care providers. Fittje, also a day care provider, knew Brooks’ caregiver and went over to sit with her friend.

While comforting the day care worker, Fittje learned Brooks had died.

“Nobody wanted to call and tell us knowing that we already had that day as a difficult day and then right after that we went over to Josh and Jamie’s and Jamie just ran over and collapsed into my arms,” she said. “She said of anyone else in that house, I knew what she was kind of going through.”

The Fittjes have been part of the “army” supporting the Andersons since.

  • Maddox Anderson, 7, starts off the golf tournament by sending the ball down the fairway. Josh Anderson said the tournament has become a day where his two living sons get a chance to know their older brother in a more real way as they listen to others talk about him.
    Maddox Anderson, 7, starts off the golf tournament by sending the ball down the fairway. Josh Anderson said the tournament has become a day where his two living sons get a chance to know their older brother in a more real way as they listen to others talk about him. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Logan Wilson tees off in his first shot at the Play for Brooks Tournament. He characterizes his relationship with the Anderson family as a special one.
    Logan Wilson tees off in his first shot at the Play for Brooks Tournament. He characterizes his relationship with the Anderson family as a special one. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Logan Wilson watches where his ball lands after teeing off in the golf tournament. His work on behalf of the Brooks Joshua Anderson Foundation has now expanded fundraising to the Cincinnati area.
    Logan Wilson watches where his ball lands after teeing off in the golf tournament. His work on behalf of the Brooks Joshua Anderson Foundation has now expanded fundraising to the Cincinnati area. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Josh Anderson said he initially coached Logan Wilson, right, as a freshman at Natrona County High School. Their relationship has grown over the years from coach-player, to best friends.
    Josh Anderson said he initially coached Logan Wilson, right, as a freshman at Natrona County High School. Their relationship has grown over the years from coach-player, to best friends. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Josh and Jamie Anderson thank participants of the ninth annual “Play for Brooks Memorial Tournament”  that helps support the Brooks Joshua Anderson Foundation.
    Josh and Jamie Anderson thank participants of the ninth annual “Play for Brooks Memorial Tournament” that helps support the Brooks Joshua Anderson Foundation. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Linda Fittje said her experience of losing a son years earlier on the same day that the Anderson’s lost theirs, gave her insight into the pain and loss the Anderson’s wen through. She was among the first to go over to their home on the day of their loss.
    Linda Fittje said her experience of losing a son years earlier on the same day that the Anderson’s lost theirs, gave her insight into the pain and loss the Anderson’s wen through. She was among the first to go over to their home on the day of their loss. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

Blogging And Sharing

Jamie Anderson said the pain of losing Brooks brought her to seek counseling and to dive deep into understanding grief and the grieving process. She and Josh would be blessed with two other sons, Maddox, 7, and Rhys, 4, and she has learned about living with loss and motherhood at the same time.

She started blogging about her life experiences, loss, motherhood and postpartum periods after having a baby.

“I’ve had a lot of women respond to me like, ‘Oh my gosh, thank you for being honest and saying how this really feels, you’ve given women a voice and validated how I feel in this moment,’” she said.

Josh Anderson said the first golf tournament and silent auction in the summer of 2016 came together with the help of many who stepped up to help. The Anderson’s foundation hadn’t been created yet, and funds raised from the tournament went to another organization that claimed to be raising money for SIDS research.

But when Josh Anderson read the foundation’s financial report, he was concerned by irregularities. He began researching other organizations to support.

He said they donated funds raised initially to an organization that later when he read their financial report caused him concerns. He started researching other organizations to support. Early one morning about seven years ago, he found the Aaron Matthew SIDS Research Guild of Seattle’s Children’s Hospital.

As he read about the couple who started the guild, he fired an email to organization founder John Kahan. Kahan and his wife, Heather, had a story similar to his and Jamie’s. John Kahan is the vice president and chief data analytics officer at Microsoft.

It took just 15 minutes for Kahan to reply to Josh Anderson’s message.

It was New Year’s Day 2017. Kahan and Anderson sent a flurry of emails to each other, developing a strong bond almost immediately. Since that time, $125,000 raised through the Brooks Joshua Anderson Foundation has been sent to SIDS research via Kahan’s organization.

‘Books From Brooks’

Additionally, the Andersons wanted funds from their son’s foundation to be used locally. Because Brooks enjoyed being read to, they came up with the Books from Brooks Memorial Scholarship to help Natrona County High graduates with post-secondary book fees. More than 17 students have received a $250 award over eight semesters.

“When we award that scholarship to them, we tell them you are representing Brooks now, do him well and do yourself well. And the kids have ran with it,” Josh Anderson said. “It’s so cool to get these handwritten letters from teenage kids that live in a tech world, that will take time and write something in ink to tell you how much they appreciate being a part of kind of our Brooks group.”

The Andersons liken putting on their fundraising golf tournament and silent auction to putting on a wedding every year. They are extremely grateful for all the support shown them from community businesses and their “army” of supporters.

Josh Anderson characterizes it as a “year-to-year” event that has not only raised funds for an important cause but it has also helped his sons Maddox and Rhys learn more about their older brother.

“It’s just been cool because it allows us to tell the stories and talk about him and other people to come in to tell their stories and talk about Brooks. And now, Maddox and Rhys they walk around like they have a personal relationship with a big brother that they never got to meet,” Josh Anderson said. “And it’s super special, the way that they talk about him, the questions they ask as just innocent little kids, and I’m grateful that we have been able to do this for that aspect.”

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at dale@cowboystatedaily.com.

Share this article

Authors

DK

Dale Killingbeck

Writer

Killingbeck is glad to be back in journalism after working for 18 years in corporate communications with a health system in northern Michigan. He spent the previous 16 years working for newspapers in western Michigan in various roles.