Blue-ribbon campaign shows Falmouth is 'Brigid Strong'

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FALMOUTH — With blue ribbons on dozens of utility poles and trees around town, and a sponsored walk at the end of the month, friends hope to rally support for a local girl facing a life-threatening disease.

Brigid Cooleen, a senior at Falmouth High School, was just days from her senior prom and weeks from graduation when a brain aneurysm, likely stemming from rare brain disease, sent her into a coma.

Cooleen is now out of the coma, but is partially paralyzed on the right side of her body and has a long road to recovery, ribbon campaign organizer and family friend Linda MacDonald said.

“It looks to be paralysis on the right side; they’re not sure if it’s permanent,” she said, noting that Cooleen has improved within the last week, writing short messages to her family on paper and on an iPad. “In typical Cooleen fashion, (the family) is very optimistic and willing to fight and go down the long road to rehabilitation.”

Cooleen has struggled since birth with a rare brain disease: rapid-onset obesity with hypothalamic dysfunction, hypoventilation and autonomic dysregulation – or ROHHAD syndrome, MacDonald said.

The syndrome can cause cardiorespiratory arrest and other related health problems, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Earlier this week, Cooleen was transferred from Maine Medical Center’s intensive care unit to a rehabilitation center in Salem, Mass., MacDonald said.

Now MacDonald, along with volunteers from throughout the community, have organized a walk-barbecue-bake sale-community get-together to support Cooleen and her family.

“So many people in town are wanting to help them in some way and you can only bake so many casseroles,” MacDonald said. “We want the family to know we’re thinking about them and supporting them through this. … We want Brigid when she comes through this, to sit down and look at pictures and we want her to see that hundreds of people are rooting for her and that this whole magical time hasn’t gone by without anybody thinking over her.”

The walk, called “Brigid Strong,” is scheduled from 4-8 p.m., June 30, at the Falmouth High School track. Participants will walk a mile around the track, although it’s not required, and there will be live music and artwork on display. Donations for the family will also be accepted.

MacDonald said the event is more than simply a sponsored walk.

“This was about getting everybody in one place at one time,” she said. “It’s about “friends, family, community, coming together to just show her family the support we want them to feel.”

T-shirts with a “Brigid Strong” logo designed by Cooleen’s friends and twin sister Katie are being sold at businesses in town and will be available at the walk to benefit the family, MacDonald said.

Cooleen is manager and statistician for the high school girls lacrosse team, and coach Robin Haley said the campaign is evidence of Cooleen’s impact on those around her.

“I think the fact that there are so many blue ribbons present speaks volumes to who she is as an individual,” Haley said, adding that teammates have been wearing blue ribbons on their cleats during practice and games in a show of support. “She has really impacted the people she has encountered throughout her schooling in Falmouth. She’s a great individual, always willing to lend a helping hand.”

For more information about the blue ribbon campaign, go to

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.

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Blue ribbons tied to utility poles along Route 1 in Falmouth are part of a campaign to rally support for Falmouth High School student Brigid Cooleen.

Brigid Cooleen, right, with her twin sister Katie. Brigid is battling a rare brain disease.