CITY OF BROOKFIELD - A group of friends with Brookfield roots are planning to make the most of their last summer as students.
Gregory Smith will be joined by his best friends Kevin Reardon, Owen Gibson and Nick Smith as the quartet embarks on a journey inspired by Gregory's mother Colleen, who died after an eight-year battle with cancer in 2014.
After his mother's death, Gregory and his friends found solace and inspiration in her "Dream Board."
"We were just kind of sitting in my mom's room and we were looking at this board she created. There were bucket list items like go rafting in the Grand Canyon, but then there were also pictures and inspirational stuff," Gregory said. "We came up with the idea to go out and try to finish it in honor of her."
In the years since, the friends have added their own items to the list and are embarking on an adventure to achieve 14 of them this summer.
"Right now we are in Amish country in Kingston, Wisconsin and we're trying to work it out because we want to live with the Amish. If we could do a week that would be great," Gregory said.
Other items that the friends hope to check off their list include skiing with the Tommy Bartlett Show in Wisconsin Dells, getting to fly in a plane as part of EAA AirVenture Air Show in Oshkosh and sailing across Lake Michigan.
The group already made a number of memories together last summer including rafting down the Mississippi River and a daring 80-foot jump off of the Upper Twin Falls Bridge into the Menominee River near Iron Mountain, Michigan among their favorite list items so far.
"It was terribly frightening," Gregory said.
While Gregory and his friends have made the bucket list their own, they believe that Colleen would be just as excited for them if she were still alive.
"There's moments where we're out on an item and it just hits me that I feel like she's there with us and smiling down on us," Gregory said. "If she was here, she would so love what we're doing."
In order to help fund their travels this summer, the quartet is hosting a rummage sale in the green space next to Shorewest Realtors, 17450 W. North Ave., May 19-21. They plan to be there from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Friday and from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The funds raised from the rummage sale will join $18,000 raised in a Kickstarter campaign which allowed them to acquire most of the camera equipment that they need to document their summer adventures.
The friends' journey will be documented in an eight-episode series called "Don't Blink." Both Wisconsin Public Television and WNMU Public TV 13 have told the friends that they would be interested in broadcasting the series. It will also likely be available for viewing online.
"The entire idea behind 'Don't Blink' is that my mom would always talk about how life is over in the blink of an eye," Gregory said. "We're trying to capture that and make sure that we don't just let it pass us by."
The four friends are all going into their senior years of college. Gregory, Kevin and Owen all lived in Brookfield and attended Marquette University High School. Nick is from Michigan, but is also Gregory's cousin. They have all attended different schools over the last four years (Gregory studies journalism at the University of Portland in Oregon), but they have remained as close as ever, thanks in large part to the memory of Colleen.
"These guys have been with me since the very beginning. They were there when I was going through the toughest time of my life and so now to be able to go out with them and experience these awesome things, it's just special," Gregory said. "It's one of the coolest opportunities I've ever had."