First Ascent, a climbing gym, will host two fundraisers to support Brandon Bradberry after he was shot outside of his nephew's funeral. Credit: Dan Bartz

GREATER GRAND CROSSING — A community of rock climbers, coffee lovers and more are throwing their support behind a man wounded in a shooting outside a South Side funeral home, and they’re hoping others join the cause to help the “bright light and wonderful presence” as he recovers. 

Brandon Bradberry was shot three times in his face, head and neck on Aug. 16, minutes after attending his nephew’s funeral at Leak & Sons Funeral Home, 7838 S. Cottage Grove Ave., said Erika Ford-Oliver, his sister.

Bradberry “was covering someone else and trying to protect them,” Ford-Oliver said. 

The investigation into the shooting is ongoing, police said. No one is in custody, they said. 

Bradberry survived, but his road to recovery will be extensive and expensive, his family said. They launched a GoFundMe in hopes of raising $75,000 to support Bradberry and his children. They’ve raised more than $66,000 so far.

Anyone who knows Bradberry can attest to the “warmth” he brings to every room he’s in, said Dan Bartz, co-founder of First Ascent climbing gym where Bradberry is a manager.

Whether cracking a joke, welcoming new climbers or leading the charge with youth through the gym’s REACH program, Bradberry “has a wonderful energy about him and the type of personality that spreads support and belonging,” Bartz said. 

So when news spread that Bradberry was wounded in the shooting, it had a ripple effect through the climbing community, Bartz said.

In the five years he’s been with the gym’s Block 37 location, Bradberry has become “central to the climbing community,” Bartz said. Everyone knows him, and he knows them by name, too, Bartz said.

First Ascent, a climbing gym, will host two fundraisers to support Brandon Bradberry after he was shot outside of his nephew’s funeral. Credit: Dan Bartz

“Brandon is such a central member of our team,” said Bartz. “Our goal is to do whatever we can to get Brandon back on his feet.  He’s such a strong individual physically, emotionally and spiritually.” 

First Ascent will host two North Side fundraisers to support “one of their own” as he recovers, Bartz said.

Neighbors can visit First Ascent’s Avondale location, 3516 N. Spaulding Ave., for a bake sale and artisan silent auction Sept. 15.

First Ascent will host “Boulder for Brandon,” a climbing competition with prizes, Sept. 22 at its Block 37 location, 108 N. State St. All proceeds will go to Bradberry, Bartz said.

More details about the events will be announced here. Neighbors can send video messages for Bradberry to info@firstascentclimbing.com until Sept. 10, Bartz said.

Build Coffee, a South Side coffee shop where Bradberry once worked, is also encouraging neighbors to donate to the family’s GoFundMe.

Ford-Oliver calls Bradberry “Superman” because “he’s so strong,” she said.

Over the last few weeks, Ford-Oliver and her siblings have been trying their best to tap into that strength and “uplift each other,” she said. 

The 10 siblings have a daily group chat where they share photos and share videos, Ford-Oliver said. On the night of the blue supermoon, Bradberry showed his family an app where they can see the planets, Ford-Oliver said. 

Bradberry can barely talk because he has a “trach” — a surgically created hole in his throat to help him breathe — but he still manages to crack jokes with his siblings, Ford-Oliver said. 

“It’s difficult seeing our brother in that position and not being able to help him,” Ford-Oliver said. “We’re trying to lean on each other to relieve some anxiety.”

The shooting was “traumatic and scary,” Ford-Oliver said. Not only is the family grieving their nephew and trying to support their sister who lost a child, but they are also staying strong for their brother, Ford-Oliver said. 

“My brother was an innocent bystander who is not involved with that type of life, and someone changed the trajectory of his and hundreds of other’s lives,” Ford-Oliver said.

First Ascent, a climbing gym, will host two fundraisers to support Brandon Bradberry after he was shot outside of his nephew’s funeral. Credit: Dan Bartz

Seeing the outpouring of love has helped Bradberry and his family, Ford-Oliver said.

“We’re trying to keep Brandon’s spirits high and let him know about the support and love he’s receiving,” Ford-Oliver said. “Those are the sort of things that are going to help uplift his spirit, motivate him and keep him inspired. He has a journey ahead of him to get to 100 percent recovery.”

For now, the focus is on helping Bradberry return to his full strength, Ford-Oliver said. Bradberry is “going to overcome this,” Ford-Oliver said.

“I hope that Brandon fully recovers and is back better than he was before, and our family has grown stronger together,” Ford-Oliver said. “I hope the love and support that he’s getting right now, when he’s ready to talk about it himself, everyone is there with open ears and open arms.” 


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Atavia Reed is a reporter for Block Club Chicago, covering the Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Chatham neighborhoods. Twitter @ataviawrotethis