To each soul blessed by Trey’s life,
On the night of June 30, 2023, our precious son Donald Randolph Brown III – affectionately known as Trey left this world. He was a brilliant light in our lives, extinguished at the tender age of sixteen. He will be sincerely missed by his parents, Donald and Christine, and his siblings, Shiloh, Madison, and Ruby.
We are leaning on God more than ever right now. The loss we are experiencing is immense and unimaginable. The emptiness is profound. Though the pain has lessened it continues to feel untenable. We have faith God will eventually restore our hearts.
We have not yet determined how to publicly memorialize Trey. Not surprisingly we did not contemplate having to lay to rest our son, particularly at such a young age. We were wholly unprepared. Currently, our family remains singularly focused on working through the sorrow and healing.
Immediately after the news about Trey’s passing began to spread, a wave of comfort and support steadily rolled in. We are absolutely overwhelmed by the sympathy and compassion that has been poured into our family. We feel your love and we are humbled. We will never be able to thank each of you personally. But please understand that every prayer, scripture, tear, text, call, visit, flower, meal, baked good, card, photo, or story of Trey… continues to make a difference.
We have continued to receive messages from people who knew Trey personally or were touched by his story asking what they can do to help. Honestly, the answer is not much. The most important thing for us now is to allow the healing process to unfold. That is something that no one can assist or hasten.
However, there are a few things that we would appreciate and welcome from anyone with a heart to assist.
Prayer. We request and value your prayers. Particularly for peace, comfort, and healing in our hearts and home. They continue to make a difference.
Photos. We would love to receive copies of any photos/ videos you may have of Trey. Seeing him, even in photos, makes us feel a little closer to him. You may text them to Trey’s mom, Christine, at (818) 919-3665.
Stories. Trey’s mom has found relief in hearing your memories and stories about Trey. Please feel comfortable texting or calling her at (818) 919-3665 to share any you may have.
Support. If compelled, you may contribute to Trey’s Foundation here, Trey Loves You! As a family we have determined the Foundation’s mission is to carry out Trey’s vision, to provide support to struggling teens, with a particular interest in assisting those experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Accept the Tell Someone Challenge. We have put together a simple challenge intended to honor Trey. Completing the challenge is a wonderful way to show Trey that his life has made a positive impact on yours.
We want to thank everyone who contributed love, joy, and happiness to Trey’s short life.
We also thank Win-1 church for nurturing Trey’s soul since he first walked through its doors, hand in hand with his Nana, all those years ago.
Lastly, please hold your loved ones close, cherish every moment you share, and remember to express your love for them often.
May God continue to bless you,
Donald & Christine Brown
Forever known as Trey’s Parents
Over the past weeks we have been blessed to hear from so many of Trey’s friends who expressed condolences and shared their memories on how he touched their lives. These communications help us heal. Knowing that Trey managed to impact others during his brief time here brings us joy.
We hope, even though Trey is gone there may be others who are able to benefit from his story. That is why we are inviting everyone to participate in the Tell Someone Challenge.
We believe Trey’s smile will light up heaven when he sees his life empowering you to muster the courage to tell someone about your secret burden. So, instead of mourning, let’s celebrate Trey!
Step 1. Tell someone your secret burden.
What do I tell?
Anything that burdens you!
Who do I tell?
Anyone you trust!
Step 2. Share Trey’s story with the people you care about and invite them to take the Tell Someone Challenge.
Trey mentioned that some of his classmates have an impressive following on social media. We hope you will help us challenge others to share their secret burdens.
#TellSomeOneChallenge #TellForTrey #TreyLovesYou #the_4_browns_official
Step 3. Send a message to us.
This last step is entirely for our own benefit. Trey’s life and its inspiration bring us joy. And just so you know, his phone stays beside our bed.
Kindly text Trey at (661) 777-8368 and tell us, “I shared because of Trey!”
Also please share with us any links of posts related to Trey or the challenge.
Donald Randolph Brown III was affectionately known as “Trey” by everyone who knew him. Trey was our son and loving him was effortless. We both loved him more than life itself. Although he is no longer physically present, his memories persist, warming our hearts.
Around 10:30 on the night of June 30, 2023, this beautiful sixteen-year-old, who personified love, compassion, and respect throughout his entire existence, made the heartbreaking decision to end his life. This, the most consequential decision of Trey’s brief life, was sudden and unexpected.
Whether it was his exceptional athleticism, remarkable intelligence, genteel demeanor, compassionate nature, or disarming smile, Trey was special in every way. A natural question for anyone to ask is: why would a child blessed with so many gifts do such a thing?
Those who truly knew Trey understood that God created him with a heart that gave him an immense capacity to give and receive love. Unfortunately, this enormous heart also caused him to feel emotional pain with the same intensity. It was this, a severe and sudden wave of unbearable anguish, that Trey sought to escape that night.
Shortly after Trey’s passing, we were made aware of a traumatic and emotionally painful incident he experienced less than 90 minutes before he died. This ignited Trey’s agony. Based on the route he traveled after the incident; we believe Trey was walking aimlessly trying to work through his hurt. We also believe he was on his way home after purchasing a snack, and as he crossed the highway overpass, he made an impulsive decision to end his suffering.
This is the second time that Trey experienced this magnitude of pain. About eighteen months prior, Trey’s first real relationship ended. The night his relationship concluded; Trey made an internet search about suicide. By the grace of God, Trey found the courage to share with us, nervously and reluctantly, what he was going through. He wanted us to know the pain he felt at the time was too overwhelming to endure.
Trey’s life could have ended back then had he not forced himself to open to up us about his struggles. Because of his bravery, we were able to wrap our arms around him and embrace him tightly until the pain subsided. During that time, Trey availed himself of an array of resources specifically designed to help teens struggling with similar pain.
This time however we did not receive notice. If we could have gotten to our son before he took that final step, we would have told him “Trey-Trey, we know this pain is unbearable and you feel like it will never end, but trust Mommy and Daddy when we tell you it will. For now, reach out and hold onto us as tight as you can, and we will hold on to you even tighter, and we will experience every painful second together.”
To be candid, even though we understood Trey was extremely sensitive to emotional pain, we never truly grasped how it could ever be so excruciating that death seemed like the only solution. We wondered if such a pain truly exists. As his last act on earth, Trey shared with us the answer. Upon realizing our beloved son had departed this world forever, we came to understand, in a way that will never fade, such a pain does exist, and it is so unbearable, stepping off a ledge suddenly becomes deceptively alluring.
Sharing intimate details about the two most difficult periods of our deceased son’s life, while we enter the most difficult season of our life, is unpleasant at best. However, we are doing so because we are confident Trey would want his story to be shared in the hopes it may help someone else who can identify with his journey.
A Blessed Life
We find comfort in knowing that Trey took advantage of each day. He did not harbor a persistent desire to end his life. In his brief time here on earth, he lived, loved, and laughed. With the exception of normal teenage angst, Trey was happy. We received a beautiful note from one of his teachers who we felt described Trey perfectly. He described him as “Zen”. That is who he was. That is how he would want to be remembered.
Trey’s mental health challenges were not chronic. They were instead situational and triggered by specific events that he found to be exceptionally emotionally painful. We are thankful only two events in his life met that threshold of pain. Unfortunately, the second took his life.
Relationships came easy for Trey. He enjoyed being around people and people enjoyed being around him. He was blessed with a group of positive and encouraging friends, from both his new and his former high schools. Trey was somewhat of a social butterfly, seamlessly flitting between diverse friend groups, each of which brought him joy.
His admission into Harvard-Westlake, one of the nation’s most esteemed prep schools was a profound source of pride for him and a place he genuinely loved. He made friends quickly and was welcomed with open arms. About a month after school began, Trey told us that one of his new classmates said, “Wow Trey, kids usually have to be here for couple of years before they have as many friends as you do.”
Trey was exceptionally intelligent. He earned a 4.5 GPA his freshman year at West Ranch High School and was also a dedicated athlete, playing for the school’s basketball and volleyball teams. After his freshman year Trey decided to transfer to a more challenging academic institution. Trey applied to a few very selective schools and every one of them offered him a spot. He selected Harvard-Westlake.
Trey loved sports and excelled at all of them. But he always remained humble. Growing up he played baseball, football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and track. His first love was football, but we were uncomfortable allowing him to play tackle. Even though he focused on basketball in middle school and continued through his freshman year, he fell in love with volleyball after playing for the first-time just last spring. In his very first volleyball tournament Trey won All Tournament honors.
This past fall he earned a spot on the Harvard Westlake varsity volleyball team as a sophomore and his dedication to the sport led him to secure a spot as the starting middle blocker – a rare distinction for a sophomore.
A week before he passed, Trey completed his second truncated club volleyball season with SC Legends. We are thankful for the way all the coaches of that organization encouraged and uplifted Trey. He was excited to go to practices. As his season closed, he was a better player and he felt valued. This was a fitting ending to his volleyball career.
Published at Age 15
Trey enjoyed expressing himself through his writing. He always attempted to be genuine and open when he expressed himself. When he was 15 he wrote a story about the fear of speaking he developed in the sixth grade. His voice was changing and would often crack. This was excruciatingly embarrassing for Trey. The story was called “The Voice Crack.” The publisher liked it and Trey was one of five teenagers to have a personal narrative published in “Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul 21st Anniversary Edition.”
Trey’s deep love for his family made him an exceptional son and brother. Trying to beat the biological clock we had four children in five years and Trey was our first. We would joke that Trey raised himself. From an early age he was mature, responsible, and independent. He left little parenting for us to do.
Trey loved his mom more than anyone or anything in the world. She was his true BFF. He demonstrated his love for her with words and actions daily. At 6’0”, towering over his 5’4” mother, he would regularly hug her and tell her he loved her. She was his safe harbor to whom he traveled when he needed comfort. With her, Trey could be authentic and vulnerable because he knew she would never judge or hurt him. He was right.
She consistently poured her heart into him. Her primary goal was to ensure Trey was able to live each day like it was his last. Together they shopped, dined, and traveled frequently. They texted like classmates. He always showed her complete respect. Never once in his life talking back or being disrespectful. When Trey left, he took a big piece of her heart with him.
Trey loved and respected his father who made being present in Trey’s life a priority. They spent quality time together and engaged in meaningful discussions. Trey played on more than fifty athletic teams during his life and his father was either coaching him on the court or watching him with pride from the bleachers.
Trey’s father poured his heart into his role. Despite his best efforts, He made more mistakes than he’d care to remember. Thankfully, because of his huge loving heart, Trey always responded with grace and forgiveness.
Trey shared a unique bond with all his siblings. He made each feel special. They adored and admired him. He was the big brother every child wishes for.
Shiloh, 15, is just 15 months Trey’s junior. They shared interests from anime to gaming, to sports; often playing on the same teams. They always protected one another. Sharing a room, they spent endless hours laughing, joking, and sharing confidences. Shiloh now faces the daunting task of sleeping alone in the room he once shared so many beautiful memories with his big brother.
Madison, 13, found in Trey a mentor and protector. She often confided in him. They shared a mutual love for fashion and Madison would often “borrow” Trey’s clothes while he was at school. They both enjoyed playing practical jokes and laughed with one another regularly. His memory will forever be a guiding force in her life.
Ruby Tess, 11, Trey’s youngest sibling considered Trey her hero. She shares Trey’s genteel nature. Trey understood Ruby and knew how to penetrate her quiet demeanor. They shared a love of anime and basketball. No matter how busy Trey was, he always made time to play Ruby’s favorite game, Roblox, with her.
Trey exhibited exceptional character as he always attempted to do what was right. From an early age his compassion was evident. Trey often felt the Lord moving him to help someone in need and he always complied.
When he was no more than nine, Trey saw a man sitting in a McDonald’s booth with a single cup of coffee. It was an exceptionally chilly night, and the man was wearing a thin sweater with newspaper stuffed underneath. He was undoubtedly sheltering from the cold. Trey’s attention went directly to the man as we entered the lobby. He was able to quickly discern that the man was hungry and said, “Dad, we should buy him some food.”
Trey gave the man a tray with food, and asked the man if he wanted something else, referring to another burger or perhaps dessert. The man responded by asking do you have a jacket?
Trey told him he did not. I am ashamed to admit it today, but I brushed over the man’s request for help, gave him our apologies for not having a jacket and said goodbye. Before our seatbelts clicked, Trey said dad we have to get the man a jacket. Fast forward, an hour later, Trey had led me to two stores, picked out a coat, and presented it to the gentleman.
When we returned home Trey shared with his mom in a matter-of-fact manner that “Dad” bought a man who was cold a jacket. Like so many times before and since, I was so proud of my son. Trey took no credit for an act of generosity that, if not for him, would not have transpired that night. Being around Trey made me better.
Trey’s Faith Comforted Him
As we all mourn Trey’s passing, we wish to convey a message of hope instead of sadness. Trey was a Christian, having accepted the Lord as his personal savior at the tender age of eleven. He, along with his three younger siblings, was baptized in a ceremony in the Pacific Ocean.
Trey once shared with us in a conversation about death, that he did not fear it. He had faith in a bible verse that reads:
And we are not afraid but are quite content to die, for then we will be at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8 Living Bible)
His faith reassures us that his spirit is now with God.
Trey would want you to have peace. He spent his life trying to make others happy. It would crush him to look down and see you sad.
Shortly after Trey left us, we were talking about what our son’s legacy would be. Our prayer when Trey was in the womb was that God would use him for His glory. As he grew up, we noticed that God had blessed him with so many gifts. There was something about Trey that was special. We were certain he was here for a greater purpose.
The question arose, why would God create this special package, equip him with so many gifts, send him to us, let us pour our love into him for 16 years, and then allow him to leave before he could even make a meaningful impact? Then we thought, perhaps he had already finished what he had been sent to do. He had touched so many hearts and nurtured so many relationships, maybe his job was complete.
We remembered that in the nine months before his passing Trey had already shared with us how he intended to help humanity. In fact, he was also already in the preliminary stages of moving towards his goal. We started thinking, could it be us, his family, who is supposed to complete his unfinished business.
When Trey began his sophomore year at Harvard Westlake last fall, he received a personal driver. Trey usually called his driver dad, but if he needed money, it became pops, and if he was displeased, it was father. The commute was about an hour each way. During that time Trey would usually text, sleep, or listen to music. But being the compassionate and charitable soul God made him to be, Trey always made sure to throw his driver a few bones in the form of conversation. Then, but even more now, his driver cherished every morsel.
During one of those conversations Trey shared his desire to help teens who were struggling with any issue, but he had a special place in his heart for those struggling with thoughts of suicide. He wondered aloud how to do this. Trey’s driver, explained what a charitable foundation is, and offered to assist him with the formation process over the summer.
Over the next few months Trey and his driver brainstormed potential names. Trey wanted his foundation’s name to send a clear message of his genuine empathy and affection for those feeling alone or unloved. One of the names Trey had an affinity towards is “Trey Loves You.” Another name Trey considered is “Here. Tomorrow.” Trey liked this name because it was a short and simple way to express his goal to encourage struggling teens to endure painful times.
Trey and his driver also discussed potential ways Trey would fund his foundation. Trey produced the idea that he would draft a book about the struggles he experienced during his freshman year. Back then, as a part of his healing process Trey had begun journaling daily. He wanted to convert his writings into a book that he hoped would resonate with those facing similar issues. He then planned to donate the proceeds from the sales of his book to fund his foundation.
In the spring of his sophomore year Trey heard about Didi Hirsh and www.teenline.org, a hotline for teens who need help with any kind of issue. Trey applied and was accepted to be a volunteer with the program. He began training at the www.teenline.org offices in June and completed nine training sessions (almost 30 hours). The most recent was completed on the day before he passed. Trey genuinely enjoyed the program, the leaders, his fellow volunteers, and the skills they were being taught. After each session, on the way home Trey would share with his driver the pieces of information he found most interesting. He was looking forward to completing his training so could begin helping others.
To honor their hero, Trey’s three younger siblings, with our oversight, have decided to bring his dream to fruition. We will take a moment to mourn Trey before we set about forming his new foundation, then we will strive to fulfill Trey’s vision to support struggling teens, with a particular interest in assisting those with suicidal thoughts.
The church Trey attended, Win-one.org, has graciously offered to temporarily receive and oversee contributions for Trey’s foundation until his foundation is formed.
If you would like to contribute to Trey’s Foundation you can do so here:
*100% of any contributions will flow into Trey’s Foundation once it is formed with the sole purpose of actualizing Trey’s dream. We do not wish to impose any sense of obligation to contribute.
First, we want to encourage you. You are doing an excellent job. Parenting is unquestionably the most important responsibility in the world. Yet it is also the most difficult. Based on our small sample size of four, children do not often provide positive feedback on your parenting performance. We suspect you have yet to hear a thank you after reminding your child it is bedtime.
But even under these poor working conditions, you still show up and do it consistently, willingly, and most importantly… lovingly.
If you are a parent, we pray you will consider the following two ideas on how you may support your child.
1. Initiate and Check In
Initiate a conversation and check in with your child to see how they are really doing. A parent knows when they are receiving a thoughtful answer from their child. This usually does not occur when they are staring at a screen while you are speaking.
At the appropriate time and in an age-appropriate manner, consider approaching your child and checking in. It can be a two-minute check-in on the way to school.
After you say, “How are you” and they respond “Fine,” ask a few follow-up questions.
Q. Who do you talk to when you have a problem?
Q. When was the last time you felt sad? Hurt? Lonely? What triggered that feeling?
Q. How long did the feeling last? What did you do to help you get over the feeling?
Q. What’s the biggest thing you worry about? What scares you?
There are countless questions you can pose to your child that will help you understand if they are struggling with anything.
We know for certain not talking about mental health struggles does not make them go away. We also know if we wait for our child to come to us, we may be waiting forever.
2. Don’t be Ashamed
Our society stigmatizes most mental health issues. It is often treated as our dirty little secret that we whisper about to our closest confidants. Yet, I believe there are very few teenagers who have not experienced some mental health struggle. Usually, they go through it in silence. Until we make them feel safe to come out of the shadows and share their struggles, they will continue to suffer in silence.
Remember, the world we live in today is much different than it was in prior generations. The internet and social media make it, so that a child does not have to leave their bedroom to be traumatized. We believe this is one of the reasons so many children are struggling.
Most importantly, please know that you matter. You are loved. We love you. We care about you.
If you ever find yourself experiencing pain that feels unbearable, we pray you will consider doing two things.
1. Tell someone! Then tell someone else! Then tell ten more people!
Please tell someone you are hurting. Then keep telling anyone who will listen and do not stop until you are no longer suffering. It takes courage, but you are stronger than you know.
You do not have to go through this alone. There are people who desperately want to hold on to you while you heal. But they must first know you are struggling.
What if Trey could have willed himself to text or call someone the night he passed…
2. Hold on! Change is coming!
While you are telling someone, hold on. Persevere. Don’t give up.
Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change.” This means nothing stays the same. Change is inevitable. So, no matter how overwhelming the pain you feel is right now, it will get better.