SHOUT OUT: What began 10 years ago as a walk to support individuals and families living with brain injury, has become something much bigger — both literally and figuratively.
Jane and Joe Concato of Westwood have followed a similar path. Jane wasn’t sure she could run a support group for those who, like her, sustained a brain injury. But Joe was pumped enough for both of them.
As a result, they continue to bring more participants and donors into the fold, many of whom will be involved with this year’s “Walk For Thought” on Sept. 28 at Saddle River County Park in Paramus.
Thousands from New Jersey have registered for or donated toward the walk, united by a single mission. Besides showing strength and success, the walk is a tribute to those who were lost to brain injury — or, like Jane, have foguth to overcome it.
Nearly 15,000 of 1.4 million people who sustain traumatic brain injuries each year are from New Jersey, according to the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey, which sponsors the walk.
About 175,000 New Jerseyans in all live with the disabilities these injuries cause.
“People know of brain injury,” primarily because of those that occur in football and military combat, Jane Concato said. “But many don’t understand what it means to have one or what it can do to a person’s life.”
Nor are many aware that the best “cure” for a brain injury is not having one in the first place. Accidents will happen, of course, but understanding risk factors plays a huge role.
WALK FOR THOUGHT
WHEN: Sat., Sept. 28 (rain or shine)
9 a.m. registration, 10 a.m. walk
WHERE: Saddle River County Park Dunkerhook Area – Pavilion D – North Trail, Paramus Road, Paramus
Concato was in a coma for three weeks after a fall at home eight years ago fractured her skull. She sustained aphasia — difficulty in finding the right words — and doctors told Joe his wife might never walk or speak again.
Although you couldn’t tell from talking with her, Jane needed six months of “cognitive rehabilitation” to get her mind fully funcitonal again, and still deals at times with unsteadiness, fatigue and vertigo. The former dental hygienist also needs medication to control seizures.
Still, she and her husband of 35 years facilitate meetings of the Brain Injury Support Group of Bergen County, which draw dozens to Englewood Hospital the third Monday of every month.
Jane also visits the Saddle Brook and West Orange facilities of the Kessler Institute with her effervescent service dog, Lucy, a small black collie.
One of the couple’s go-to resources is the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey, the only non-profit of its kind. Its mission is “to support and advocate for individuals affected by brain injury and raise public awareness through education and prevention.”
It directly assists those in need, while suppling information and resources that include a family help line, a browse-and-borrow library, brain injury training sessions, a summer camp known as TREK and other services and programs.
And it promotes self advocacy through a special committee, Council for the Head Injured Community, while maintaining an active legislative network to encourage advocacy on the behalf all affected by brain injury.
The Concatos’ “Support Group Strollers,” including a fellow outfit from Essex County, will participate in the one-mile walk. The event will include breakfast and lunch, as well as a host of activities for youngsters.
Besides raising money and awareness, this year’s march honors “those who have sustained brain injuries and cannot walk with us.”
The Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. Your contribution is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable under the law. Personal information is required so that the Brain Injury Alliance of NJ may acknowledge your donation.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.