By Jeff Vorva
Brooke Veldman has gone through some major changes in her life since leaving Chicago Christian High School.
The Trinity Christian College volleyball player transferred from Calvin College in Michigan to the private school in Palos Heights.
She changed majors from chemical engineering to special education/elementary education.
And on the volleyball court, the 6-foot sophomore changed positions from middle hitter to right-side hitter.
The good news is that she is happy with those changes in her life.
“I’m absolutely loving it,” she said.
The better news is that she has a life to make changes in.
In August 2016, Veldman nearly drowned while saving a child’s life in Lake Michigan.
After a sand volleyball tournament at Washington Park Beach in Michigan City, Indiana, Veldman, then 15, and some friends hit the water, which had rip-current conditions.
“There was a church group and some kids, I think they were Haitian, were swimming near us,” she said. “There was a little boy struggling to swim. I was like, ‘I can’t watch him drown. The lifeguards are doing nothing and not paying attention,’ and I tried to swim out there.”
That started a chain of events that in the end were heroic, but nearly tragic.
“I had my hair braided and he used my hair like a rope,” she said.
And he inadvertently pulled her under water, causing Veldman to lose consciousness.
According to a South Bend TV news report, lifeguards rescued both Veldman, the boy and two other people. Her quick thinking and reaction helped save one life directly and two more indirectly.
“My mom [Tami] and others carried me out by my arms and legs,” she said. “I don’t know long I was out but I woke up to people screaming, ‘How many (swimmers) were there? How many were there?’ I woke up nauseous because I swallowed a ton of water. Thankfully, I didn’t get any in my lungs.”
Veldman said she is a strong swimmer and just reacted to the situation.
“My friends know me as the ‘mom’ of our friend group,” she said. “I’m always trying to take care of everyone and make sure they are OK.”
Now, she is trying to make the Trolls’ volleyball team OK.
Trinity is trying get back to the NAIA National tournament for the third straight season. First-year coach Becky Eller is trying to keep the momentum going after veteran coach Bill Schepel left to go to Purdue Northwest.
Veldman, Mady Zula and Taryn Hinken each had seven kills in the Trolls’ 25-23, 25-22, 25-12 victory over St. Ambrose on March 9, and former Shepard star Sarah Kiwan added six. That boosted the team’s record to 8-5 overall and 8-2 in the 14-team Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference. The top eight teams head to the conference’s postseason tournament in April and the Trolls were in third place after the St. Ambrose match.
The triumph came after the Trolls were stunned in three sets by Indiana South Bend on March 4. They needed to rally from a 20-15 deficit in the first set and an 11-4 deficit in the second set before dominating in the third against the Bees.
“The energy is great,” Veldman said. “If you could feel the way that we were on the court – it’s crazy. We’re connecting like crazy. We bonded together really well.”
Other area standouts on the Trolls are freshman Emma Dykstra (Chicago Christian), Amber Ryan (Richards) and Trisha Noonan (Mother McAuley).