Brain injury awareness important for community

A fundraiser in Castlegar on Saturday was also about raising awareness of acquired brain injuries and their often significant impacts.

Front row (L-R): Kelly Johnson

It can happen anytime, anywhere and without warning. A slip around the house, a miscalculation while driving or a medical emergency can cause a brain injury resulting in impairment of both mental and physical functioning that can range from mild to severe.

The West Kootenay Brain Injury Association, a Castlegar based, non-profit dedicated to serving people in the Kootenay Boundary area, received a boost to its fund-raising and outreach efforts on Saturday, Sept. 28 when Sun Life Financial sponsored a barbecue at Kalawsky Chevrolet.

“Some of our clients with brain injury don’t have the ability to come out and volunteer or do things on their own without the support of a worker,” said Kelly Johnson, executive director of the association. “So, it’s so great when people from the community — who are able-bodied — are able to make partnerships with us and do something like this event on their own without even any help from us.”

Sun Life advisor Rauni Naud said she was happy to have arranged the barbecue, which unfortunately fell on a rather wet day in the Kootenays. Still, with delicious food and fun balloon creations donated from Doreen’s Balloon Creations, the mood was cheery and bright under the tent. (Learn more about Doreen’s via the Facebook page:

“We’re happy that Kalawsky agreed to let us set up here today and Sun Life will also be matching any funds raised,” said Naud, who was busy coordinating the movement of cars with Kalawsky staff in order to get the tent closer to the road and a bit more visible to passing motorists.

The association currently serves over 100 people in the West Kootenays, with varying levels of impairment resulting from car accidents, strokes, sports injuries and other unfortunate situations. Johnson said as individual as people are, so are brain injuries, with no two people being affected in the same way.

“You can be very disabled where you may lose your speech, ability to read or experience paralysis on one side of your body and be unable to use limbs. Or, you can have nothing recognizable physically which makes it difficult for some people because they may not understand that you’re having a little bit more trouble processing information.”

The association provides one-on-one and group support to get people back to the highest functioning level possible and they do not need referrals from doctors. Those with an injury, or their care-givers or loved ones, can contact the association independently.

“In Castlegar, we have approximately 35 clients but we serve throughout the West Kootenays,” said Johnson. “It goes up and down as people get rehabilitated and get better, get back to their jobs, and can get back out on their own.”

Making the community aware of brain injuries is a key goal for the association, as it’s important for those with a suspected injury to be assessed early so that treatment options can be discussed.

A handout from the association stated an estimated 21 to 38 brain injuries occur in British Columbia every day. The group’s fundraising and community outreach activities include a significant focus on prevention, including the importance of wearing helmets while engaging in sports.

“My husband had an accident just the other day,” said Johnson. “He cracked ribs but was wearing a helmet so at least he protected his head.”

If you, or someone you know has suffered head trauma or may have an acquired brain injury, contact the association at 250-304-1212 or visit the office at the 2nd floor of the Castlegar Community Heath Centre, 709 – 10th Street or visit their website at


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