Todd Copeland establishes medical scholarship for IDF soldiers in Sam Brooke’s memory

The best of friends starting in kindergarten, Todd Copeland and Sam Brooke went to school together, spent time in each other’s homes as young friends do, and even travelled to Israel together. But they wouldn’t have old age together, as Sam passed away in 1993, around his 25th birthday, due to a lost battle with leukemia.

Earlier this year, Todd and Robin Copeland established and endowed the Sam Brooke Memorial Medical IMPACT! Scholarship Fund in his memory. This scholarship (arranged through the auspices of the FIDF) benefits IDF soldiers who are cycling out of military service and wish to attend medical school in Israel.

“I wanted to keep Sam’s memory alive,” says Todd, who used his Donor Advised Fund at Tidewater Jewish Foundation to fund the scholarship. “Sammy wanted to be a surgeon. He was a brilliant guy.” The fund aims to eventually support six students in medical school each year.

Sam and Jeffrey Brooke.
Sam and Jeffrey Brooke.

Sam went to Hebrew Academy of Tidewater, to Norfolk Collegiate, and then to Norfolk Academy where he played basketball. It was in the eighth grade that leukemia first struck. He fought the illness and went on with his life, graduating from UVA and entering medical school. The relapse came during his second year of medical school.

“We think naming this scholarship after Sam is the most wonderful thing,” says his mother, Ellie Brooke.

While appreciative and excited by Todd’s creation of the scholarship, Ellie doesn’t appear surprised by his decision. That’s because she personally knows about the kindness of the entire Copeland family. “When Sam was at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, Bobby and Ann Copeland (Todd’s parents) were amazing to us. . . visiting and bringing us dinner.”

When Sam and Todd were 16 years old, Mindy Futterman, Ellie recalls, arranged a trip to Israel for them. Although Sam was undergoing chemotherapy at the time, he wouldn’t permit his illness to interfere with the trip. In Israel, the teens attended the Maccabi Games, took a cruise in Eilat, and so much more.

Sam, Ellie says, had a deep feeling for Judaism and for Israel. “Both were part of his identity. He was very involved with and caring for Israel.”

“Sam did more than most people would do,” says his father, Lenny Brooke. “When he was sick, he was very supportive of his parents and of his docs.”

One odd situation, recalls his father, was when Sam was a patient in UVA’s hospital. The very same medical students whom he had gone on rounds with, were now doing rounds on him. Still, he managed to maintain a positive attitude and continued to study from his hospital bed.

“Sam was an inspiration to those who knew him—managing to complete his second-year medical school exams at the University of Virginia Medical School even while his life was ebbing away,” says his brother, Jeffrey Brooke.

The first scholarship recipient of the Sam Brooke Memorial Medical IMPACT fund is Sagi Yosef, who just began medical school at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is a Naval Intelligence Fighter (res) whose life was on pause while she volunteered for reserve duty rather than starting school. She writes, “Two days after I was on an operational cruise, I started studying medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I felt a huge dissonance between where I am now and where I was just a moment before.”

Sam Brooke.
Sam Brooke

It has been a hard transition from reserve duty to focusing on school. Yosef says, “In my worst nightmare, I didn’t think this was what the start of my studies would look like when I was informed that I had been accepted in August. To start the university while my friends were losing their lives in the Gaza war.”

“Sam was kind, bright, and considerate,” says Lenny. “He was smart beyond his years.”

Now, with the Copeland family’s generosity, says Jennifer Scher, vice president, MidAtlantic Region, FDIF, “this scholarship fund is a beautiful way to ensure Sam’s memory lives on and transforms lives long into the future.”