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Stroke Smart Magazine

July/August 2007

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Back to Camp

By Lynn Bronikowski

If you thought camp was just for kids, think again. Now there are camps all around the country designed specifically to help stroke survivors in their stroke recovery journey.

Last summer at Retreat and Refresh camp, stroke survivor Chuck Hofvander and his wife, Liz, painted bird houses, made s'mores, watched silly skits at a luau, played games and musical instruments, saw movies and made new friends.

“It was like a camp for adult kids,” said Liz of the Illinois-based camp for stroke survivors and caregivers. “The volunteers really pampered us. I was able to relax, get refreshed [and] be free of some of my responsibilities.”

Her husband had been in tip-top shape when in March 2005, at age 52, he was hit by a stroke that left him with aphasia.

“I was completely healthy, had ridden a bike since I was 16,” said Chuck. “Stroke was something I did not think about. At first I could hardly speak and then mixed up words. Now I'm determined to get back to where I was before the stroke.”

“It was like [I] had a weight lifted from [my] shoulders, very freeing and for the first time in a long time, I felt normal,” said Chuck. “There were other people like me who struggle with the same things I do and now we stay in contact with each other.”

Stroke camps help survivors build confidence and self-esteem, said Mary Beth Clark of Luther Midelfort - Mayo Health System, which operates the Chippewa Valley Aphasia Camp in Eau Claire, Wisc.

“We're hoping that [the camp] helps stroke survivors gain communication confidence,” said Clark. “One of the exciting things we see is that people really do lose sight of their limitations while engaging in activities at camp.”

She cited the case of a man who never picked up a golf club following his stroke until he hit a few balls at the camp.

“Now he's golfing again,” she said. “Another man played his guitar again while sitting around a campfire. The camp helps people to feel confident in a safe environment.”

The camps are non-profit, staffed by professionals and volunteers and are reasonably priced at $75 to $100 per person including food, lodging and activities.

“When we initially drove up, I had my doubts because the camp was at the end of a long road amid cornfields,” said Chuck. “But once we got there, we were surrounded by volunteers — it was such a warm feeling from the start.”

The Hofvanders are believers. They plan to return to camp this year.

Stroke Camp may Help You:
Gain self confidence through fun and energizing activities
Get reacquainted with sports, recreational and other activities you enjoyed before stroke
Build communication skills and confidence
Lose sight of your limitations


RETREAT AND REFRESH camp for stroke survivors and caregivers, near Peoria, Ill., has weekend sessions Aug. 17-19, Sept. 21-23, Oct. 19-21. Marylee Nunley is camp director. Visit http://www.strokecamp.com/ or call (309) 645-9258 for information.

CHIPPEWA VALLEY APHASIA CAMP, operated by Luther Midelfort - Mayo Health System in Eau Claire, Wisc., will be held Sept. 14-16 Contact: Mary Beth Clark, (715) 838-3258, mailto:clark.marybeth@mayo.edu

LIVING WITH STROKE CAMP at Whispering Hope Ranch near Payson, Ariz., operated by Southwestern Advanced Neurological Rehabilitation. Visit http://www.swanrehab.com/ or call (602) 393-0520 for dates and details.

PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY STROKE CAMP, Aug. 25-26, an annual retreat at the Kiwanis Camp on Mount Hood for stroke survivors with aphasia and their families. Contact: Melinda Pomeroy at the PSU Speech-Language & Hearing Clinic, (503) 725-3070, http://www.sphr.pdx.edu/resources.

EASTER SEALS COLORADO, STROKE DAY PROGRAM, offered on various dates in Lakewood, CO. Go to co.easterseals.com or call (303)233-1666 or (303) 569-2333 for more information.


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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