The City Council has officially made a decision to rename the Turlock Skate Park to the Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park, in honor of Brandon Koch, who recently passed in April at the age of 26, due to adrenocortical cancer.
Friends and family of Koch who have spent months advocating for the renaming of the park largely attended the meeting, held on Tuesday evening at City Hall. In June, Judith Suliman, Brandon Koch’s aunt, attended the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting to speak to the commission regarding the name change. After hearing her request, and the support from other community members at the meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously to pass the issue on to the City Council, where the final decision would be made.
Suliman had also collected over 1,000 signatures from community members in support of the renaming of the park. Many of the signatures also contained comments from community members sharing memories of Brandon Koch and the legacy he left behind at the Turlock Skate Park.
“He made that skate park a home,” stated Zachary Wagner, a friend of Koch, at the City Council meeting. “He made it a safe place for kids to go. There were many times where he stopped bullies from coming in and taking young kids’ skateboards, and just looked out for the skate park in general. We made it so that everyone felt welcome and at home there.”
Suliman also addressed the Council, stating that although Brandon Koch might not have held any political office or made any monetary contributions to the City, as usually required by the criteria for renaming a park, he did indeed provide a voluntary public service for the community during his time at the skate park.
“There’s criteria, and I’m aware of those,” stated Suliman. “No he didn’t hold office, he was 24 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Was he a financial donor? No, he came from humble beginnings, and his father hasn’t been in the picture since he was about nine or ten years old. He did, however, provide volunteer public service for the community, not in an official manner, he just did it.”
Many of the supporters at the meeting shared memories of Koch spending his days at the Turlock Skate Park while taking the time to teach young skateboarders new tricks and even made efforts to get sponsorships for others, so that they could become recognized in the skateboard community and go on to competitions.
“No matter what he was going through, he was always looking out for his friends,” stated Jillian Berry, one of Brandon’s close friends. “It was never ‘poor me’, he was always there for everyone else. He reminded me that when life is hard, you’re going to get through it.”
Andrew Ellis, a young boy who learned how to skate from Brandon, also attended the meeting with his father Mark Ellis, and shared memories of how Brandon had taught him to skate and learn tricks he never imagined he would be capable of doing.
“He was always the one to reach out,” stated Mark Ellis. “You never had to ask him for help, he would just come and offer. And there was something about Brandon that you could just trust.” Ellis also shared that having Brandon at the skate park made him feel safer about having his son Andrew there.
After hearing many stories of Brandon’s legacy at the skate park, the City Council voted unanimously to change the name of the park to the Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park.
With congratulations from Mayor John Lazar, Koch’s family and friends burst into tears of happiness, as their efforts in renaming the park had succeeded.
“I want to say thank you for coming out and doing this,” stated Councilwoman Mary Jackson. “It shows what you can do as a community member.”
“I think we witnessed something this evening that resonates with each one of us,” stated Councilman Bill DeHart after the meeting. “When we have someone in our community that’s a leader, and an encourager that lives their life in joy, it behooves us all to sit up and take notice.”