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Brain energy support team hopes to increase brain injury awareness

// UP non-profit launches #5forsuperheroes for people with brain injury

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The number of people in Washington affected by deseases related to traumatic brain injury is estimated be around 145,000 people. Non-profits like the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST), located at 2607 Bridgeport Way W., are dedicated to providing support, advocacy, public awareness, education and socialization opportunities not only to those affected by these injuries, but their families as well.

This week, BEST kicked off their “#5forsuperheroes” campaign in which the community will have the opportunity to make an online $5 donation to support BEST’s mission of changing the face of brain injury throughout the state. Donations can be made at: brainenergysupportteam.org/donate-now/. BEST hopes the campaign will not only increase brain injury awareness, but also give citizens an affordable and easy way to contribute, as well as showcase the people behind the mission.

“The numbers [of citizens affected] are higher if you add those who aren't hospitalized or initially diagnosed. We provide support and administration for approximately 70 brain injury support groups in Washington State with monthly attendance upwards of 3,000 people, and we get calls daily from people looking for support that aren't already receiving it,” said BEST Executive Director Gloria Kraegel.

BEST was created by citizens with brain injuries and their families, ensuring that the organization is full of individuals who understand what it’s like to support and live with brain injuries.

“BEST was created by individuals with brain injury for individuals with brain injury and, by extension, their families and caregivers,” Kraegel said. “It's who we are. We believe that with support and opportunity those with brain injury can achieve their dreams and enjoy a quality of life they might not have thought possible.”

The “#5forsuperheroes” campaign was envisioned because superheroes represent every part of a person, their strengths and their vulnerabilities, and also because people dealing with brain injuries, as well as their caretakers, are superheroes.

“One of the biggest challenges when someone has a brain injury is identity. Identity is at the core of who we are. Whether it's framed by what we do, what we know, our passions or interests. Whatever it is, it defines us. Many of the people we work with sustained a brain injury as a result of a traumatic moment that dramatically altered their lives and a loss of identity,” Kraegel said. “A superhero is someone with incredible resolve, a specific talent or skill and a vulnerability. They also give of themselves for the good of others. It was important to us to showcase these people and celebrate them because they are an inspiration; truly people we can look up to.”

The money collected through the campaign will help BEST provide support, advocacy, public awareness, education and socialization opportunities to individuals with a brain injury and their families.

“Our focus is peer support and education. Our mentoring program, Project PEER, is at the core of it all. Project PEER (Personal Empowerment through Education & Resources) provides individuals with brain injury the opportunity to learn, practice and improve social, business and daily living skills. At the core of it is a terrific approach to personal futures planning that helps individuals to establish an identity that builds on their strengths and interests. The funds will be used to continue our work across the state in this area,” Kraegel said. “Brain injury can happen to anyone at any time. It changes your life in an instant and often we are navigating those changes for the rest of our lives. Also, the impact on families is tremendous. We need to acknowledge that life changes for our loved ones too, and that's all too often overlooked. At BEST we embrace the family as part of our effort to support individuals with brain injury.”

To find out more information, visit www.brainenergysupportteam.org.

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