Posted on December 15, 2022

Acts of Kindness: Brooklyn Zylstra Gives Back in a Big Way

Brooklyn Zylstra understands the assignment.

But her project isn’t like that of many middle schoolers her age. This 13-year-old has been giving back to the Grand Rapids community in a very unique way.

Brooklyn, an 8th grader at KPS Pinewood Middle School, has taken it upon herself to bring joy to kids who are on their journeys to recovery.

In December 2020, Brooklyn, who is a competitive gymnast, fractured a growth plate in her elbow. In the months to follow, she was diagnosed with a rare condition known as complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS. To help with the pain and range of motion, she came to Mary Free Bed for pediatric inpatient therapy.

At Mary Free Bed, she discovered a new source of healing with our inpatient pediatric program. Not only was her therapy a learning experience and emotional release, it also helped her to work on fine motor skills and reduce pain. Watch more of her story here.

“I learned it’s not always easy to stay busy and keep your mind off things in a hospital,” said Brooklyn. “I know what it feels like, and hope this helps lift the spirits of other kids.”

Each year, Brooklyn finds an inventive new avenue to raise money. Two years ago, she sold winter hats – complete with the formal name of her initiative: Project Give. Beneath the project name, the tag reads: “Acts 20:35” – a kind reminder that’s it’s much better to give than to receive.

And give, she did. Mary Free Bed was humbled by Project Give this year. Brooklyn partnered with her mom to take photos of her fellow gymnasts and friends. Accepting donations for Project Give as payment, she raised nearly $1000 for Mary Free Bed’s recreational therapy program.



“With countless opportunities to help others in our community, we are so grateful Brooklyn chose to benefit our hospital,” said Jocelyn Dettloff, major gifts director for the Mary Free Bed Foundation. “She is an incredible young woman whose efforts only ‘wow’ us more with each passing year.”

With her earnings, Brooklyn handpicked the collection of gifts herself – aligning the selection with the Mary Free Bed Amazon Wish List. She and her dad spent the day at Target – which price matches Amazon – meticulously ensuring the prices were matched so the donation could be as impactful as possible.

Deb Brewer, Mary Free Bed recreational therapist, took the time to specifically explain how many of the gifts will impact kids in their therapy. And a few of our youngest patients who are especially in need this season will receive one as a holiday gift.



“Brooklyn was incredibly thoughtful with the gifts she purchased. This is the biggest donation we’ve received from our wish list all year. Our rec therapy team is so excited to put these books, toys, games and creative supplies to work for our patients,” said Deb.

On behalf of our hospital, patients and staff, Mary Free Bed extends its gratitude and wishes Brooklyn all the best with the future impact of Project Give.


About Mary Free Bed Recreational Therapy

Mary Free Bed offers both inpatient and outpatient recreational therapy for adults and children of all abilities, whether you’ve experienced an illness or injury that required inpatient rehabilitation or to help manage a condition such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

A little goes a long way! Big or small, donations are always accepted. View the Mary Free Bed Amazon Wish List here.