A BIG Skate, a BIG Life & a Nissan Altima along for the ride

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The Facts:

  • TBI Doesn’t Discriminate: Every 21 seconds, someone in the U.S. sustains a brain injury. At least 5.3 million Americans live with a brain injury requiring lifelong help.
  • Even our Heroes: At least 400,000 Veterans since 2000 have been diagnosed with a brain injury.
  • In Florida: In Florida alone, an average of 265 people a day sustain a brain injury, equaling over 97,000 annually. Only 1 in 20 brain injury survivors get the necessary rehabilitation.
  • You Should Know: Brain injury is a public health problem as statistics related to brain injuries, ranging from concussions to severe TBI, are alarming. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines brain injury as a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.
  • TBI Affects So Much: Brain injury can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, language, learning, emotions, behavior, mental health and/or sensation.
  • The Impact on the Family: Change in brain function can have a profound impact on family, job, social and community interaction. Astounding rates of isolation, depression, poor life quality, suicidality, permanently severed relationships and high divorce rates accompany life after brain injury.

In April 2009, Merideth McDonald, founder and director of BIG Life, had her world turned upside when her life was forever changed by a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Nate, her husband, was in what was thought to be a fatal motorcycle accident; the result of a garbage truck turning in front of him.  Despite wearing a full-faced helmet, Nate was left with devastating injuries – including a TBI – and was not expected to live for several days after the accident. When he did live, he was never expected to come out of his coma. Against all odds, Nate slowly began to show signs of improvement – but it was an incredibly long and difficult journey. Nate had to learn everything again; he had to learn to walk, talk, chew, swallow, read, walk, etc. Although many of the other injuries have long-term ramifications, they do not have the daily effect and unpredictability that comes with living with a TBI.

“Each day is different and filled with ever-changing challenges for both TBI survivors and their caretakers; no day is ever the same when you live with a brain injury or live with someone who has a brain injury.” With no warning, preparation, education or awareness, Merideth was instantaneously thrust into a life with a TBI at the focal point. The unfortunate part of this is that she was not alone in her ignorance or unpreparedness, but had taken on a new and lifelong role and title of TBI caregiver. Everything seemed just fine because TBI and its caregiving often show no obvious scars.

Thus, Merideth and Nate were inspired to turn their indescribable pain and trial into purpose!

“BIG” representing Brain Injury Group, a 501(c)3 organization set out on a record-setting feat on September 10, 2016 by inline skating nearly 1,500 miles, through twelve states and Washington D.C., from New Smyrna Beach, Florida to Boston, Massachusetts! When we learned about their incredible dedication to this under-appreciated cause, we were inspired to create the BIG Skate Altima for their heroic journey.

A few spills resulting in scrapes and bruises, one traffic stop – for coming down a very steep bridge not necessarily appropriate for skating down (and even then, the police officer was friendly and just wanted to remind them to be safe), and many new friends and stories later, Merideth wrapped up her BIG Skate on October 14, 2016. The epic adventure Merideth and Nate embarked upon succeeding in raising awareness about brain injuries, encouraging survivors and caregivers, raising funds to develop the BIG Life campus and expanding the BIG Life mission throughout our community, state and beyond.

BIG Life is serving the brain injury population as resources are available and The BIG Skate served as BIG Life’s first official fundraising initiative. Through sustainable donations, grants and sponsorship, brain injury survivors and their caregivers will be blessed with such rehabilitation that otherwise would be unavailable to this severely under-served population. BIG Life provides diverse and innovative rehabilitation opportunities to continually meet the needs of the brain injury population. BIG Life provides a constant sense of inclusion and improved quality of life as part of this group and in our community, stimulating positive – societal change.

Every donation is BIG and plays a lasting effect on the lives of those forever impacted by brain injury -> DONATE NOW!

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