Brack Duncan, a 22-year-old Clark native and University of Kentucky senior, has a vision. It’s one to change lives, and he won’t let his age hold him back from successfully doing that.
Few people can say they started a nonprofit organization that helps families before the age of 25, or that they divide their time between working for that organization and attending college, however, Brack is out to prove young people can truly make a difference if they focus on their own abilities.
Brack has a history of working with individuals with Down syndrome. While a student at George Rogers Clark High School, he was a peer tutor for students with special needs, helping them with homework and taking care of their needs throughout the school day.
Through this work and his friendship with Josh Banks, who has Down syndrome, Brack began focusing more and more on helping others.
“Amy Schwab, who was a special education teacher in Clark County, connected me with Darren Diguette from STRIDE (a therapeutic recreation and day therapy program for individuals with disabilities in Winchester), and he reached out to me when I graduated high school and asked if I’d be interested in working with adults who had special needs … the rest was history,” Brack said.
That’s how Buddies Of The Bluegrass — an organization that helps families raise money for adoptions of children with Down syndrome — was born.
Running his own nonprofit is a big job, Brack admits, but he and his team are all in.
Early October brought their first fundraising event, a concert at Manchester Music Hall for Scot and Jackie Rowe. The couple from Alexandria needed help funding their adoption of a child with Down syndrome from Eastern Europe, and that was all Buddies Of The Bluegrass needed to know.
“As vice president of Chapter Service for FarmHouse Fraternity at UK, I was able to partner my own fraternity with my business,” Brack said. “Our fundraiser was a benefit concert that featured four bands from Kentucky, DJ Forerunner from 102.5 and a special appearance from Laura Kirkpatrick from America’s Next Top Model. What made the concert so cool is that each band invited a buddy with special needs to join them on stage for their closing numbers, so while we were raising money for an awesome cause, we were also raising awareness. I loved this because it was a great event for young people and showed them how much fun they can have while doing something great.”
It’s hard to believe one person can find time to do so much, and when you factor in the rest of Brack’s responsibilities — he attends UK full time and works not one but three jobs — his achievements seem almost supernatural.
Brack names his close friends and family members, including his parents and siblings, as the reason he’s been able to turn Buddies Of The Bluegrass into such a success.
The hardest part, he said, is finding enough hours in the day.
“I am not complaining at all, because I love what I do, but it does get hard sometimes to find the time to get everything done and it has taught me the importance of sacrificing my own time and comforts for others,” he said. “I don’t make any money from BOTB, so everything I do with it is just because I want to be doing it. I make it my ‘free time.’ Luckily I have an awesome family that has really jumped on board with this and has helped me so much, because I could not do it without them.”
Brack’s twin brother, Clay, and younger sisters, Lacee and Sophie, were all involved in the creation of Buddies of The Bluegrass, and his parents, Brackston and Tonya Duncan of Winchester, serve as board members.
“I really loved the idea of BOTB being a family business,” Brack said.
One of the things that has allowed Buddies Of The Bluegrass to garner attention and support the most is social media, which has connected Brack and the organization to families of special needs children and adults. The feedback he receives from these families, he said, has been invaluable.
“Social media plays a pretty big role in helping Buddies of The Bluegrass work with these special families,” he said. “The more I began to share about my friendship with Josh, the more people would follow who had children with special needs, and they would send me messages.”
Their messages would say stuff like, “You have no idea what kind of hope this gives me that my son will fit in one day,” and, “What you’re doing really means a lot to a lot of people.”
“I really thought this was cool, so I began to follow family accounts that had children with Down syndrome, and really learned a lot about the financial and emotional sides of special needs adoptions,” he said. “I wanted to have a role in that process and help make it a little less stressful for families who wanted to adopt special needs kids and couldn’t afford it.”
Brack said Buddies Of The Bluegrass has several plans for the immediate future, as well as for the coming year; a 5K is in the works for spring, plus new T-shirt designs for supporters to help spread the word. They are also planning several small fundraisers over the course of the year leading up to a second benefit concert next fall, which will become an annual event. There are many ways to help; you can visit the website or Facebook page for more information. However, Brack said for those who are wondering how they can truly make a difference, it’s important to start by making an impact at home.
“If you want to change the world, you have to start by changing your world,” he said. “Society drives our generation to chase fame and fortune, but the only way to really make a difference is by focusing on changing one life at a time. Every person has the potential to have made an impact bigger than they could ever imagine.” §