Camp gives Kansas stroke survivors, and caregivers a break

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Singing songs around the campfire, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores are the traditional camp favorites.

The only thing non-traditional about this camp are the campers.

“It was just an idea,” said Larry Schaer, CEO of United Stroke Alliance. “An idea of bringing stroke survivors together.”

Not only survivors, but their caregivers. It’s called Refresh and Retreat Stroke Camp.

“It’s like people need a break,” Schaer said. “Especially our caregivers that are 24/7 sometimes.”

They got a break, indeed. Getting pampered, massages and manicures is just what the doctor ordered for caregiver Anna King. At just 8-years-old, she has become her mom’s biggest helper.

“Every day I see her pick up heavy things and I say, mom, I will get that for you,” Anna said.

Her mom had a stroke over a year ago. Anna was there when it happened and at the hospital after.

“I thought she was never going to come home,” Anna said.

It’s a heartbreaking story that nearly everyone at the camp can relate to, even KSNT News Evening Anchor Brooke Lennington.

She too, thought her father, who had a stroke last November would never come home.

Brooke had never heard her dad sing before, until he sang karaoke at the stroke camp.

Anna King’s mom, Tina, felt a sense of unity at the camp.

“To come here it really opened my eyes to see that I’m not the only one that struggles at times,” Tina said.

No stroke is ever the same, which is why each survivor recovers differently.

“I couldn’t walk and I couldn’t swallow, couldn’t use my left side,” Tina said.

Yet, she climbed a rock wall at the camp. It was an exciting and emotional moment for her daughter, Anna.

“I smiled and I thought, that’s really good that’s she’s getting stronger instead of weaker,” she said.

From one daughter of a stroke survivor to another, Brooke can relate. Just like spouses taking care of one another, they get each other.

After a loved one has a stroke, it’s a journey for them and their caregiver. And at stroke camp, even if it’s just for a weekend, nobody is on the journey alone.

It’s through sponsors and donations that make these camps possible. If you’d like to help or attend a camp in the future, click here.

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