Recap of Think Tank 2013

Think Tank 2013 was held at The Grand in Long Beach on Saturday, April 6, 2013. A few words to describe the day could be: Fantastic, Inspiring, Excellent, Helpful, Resourceful, Impressive, Compassionate, Courageous, Inviting, and just plain Fun! About 200 attendees came to hear top rated speakers with clear and soft hearts for the brain injured and their families. A lovely continental breakfast greeted the early arrivers. Lieutenant Colonel Gary McNamara (Ret) presented the colors of our National Military forces and he led us all in the Pledge of Allegiance. Former NFL 49er, George Visger started off the day with his compelling story of suffering numerous sports-related brain injuries. His intelligent, yet warm and humorous manner of sharing his story engaged us all. Lieutenant Colonel McNamara came back and introduced USMC Sergeant Major James Schickel (Ret), and Sergeant Major spoke strongly yet compassionately about the plight of our returning veterans who have sacrificed so much and have received so little of what they deserve. There was a poignant moment when the Sergeant Major and Lieutenant Colonel stood together on the stage and the entire audience stood to their feet for a standing ovation in appreciation for their service. Psychiatrist, Todd Clements M.D. was next as he gave a brilliant talk on Depression in the Injured Brain. His compassionate manner was keenly balanced by his skillful knowledge of brain injury, and the message was delivered in such a way that the audience could relax and enjoy the important information.

Lunch was a treat as all of the attendees probably had a difficult time choosing which dishes in the buffet would fit on their plate. The meal was displayed beautifully and the Catalina Room became a B.R.A.I.N. advertisement as the linens were black and red.

Board Member, Jerry Rueb gave a current update on B.R.A.I.N. and screened the new B.R.A.I.N. promo film. B.R.A.I.N. family faces were shown telling their individual stories of inspiration, and the audience was captivated.

Angela Mandas, MA CCC-SLP, B.R.A.I.N.’s Speech Pathologist, stepped to the microphone to give an outstanding description of B.R.A.I.N.’s Person of the Year Award. Angela was the 2012 recipient and was the perfect person to present the honored award. No one was more surprised than this year’s Person of the Year, Physiatrist, Richard Adams M.D. Dr. Adams is the Director at Rehabilitation Associates Medical Group, California’s expert on brain injury, and a favorite advocate for families whose loved ones suffer from the impact of their injury.  His name is now engraved on the plaque and he will be remembered for years to come for his contribution to B.R.A.I.N.  (See Ms. Mandas’ speech below).

Neurosurgeon, David Levy M.D. concluded the day’s speaking schedule. His gentle and honest approach to treating his patients needing his skillful hands in brain surgery came across to the audience, and he helped all of us learn some common sense strategies to cope with a brain injury. Finding joy in everyday occurrences, learning how to use recreation as a regular activity, and using self-talk to remind our brains how fortunate we are were a few of the helpful tips.

Angela Mandas returned to facilitate the Panel of Experts. James Novinger, Chris Greaney, Colt Munchoff and Steve McCann joined the special speakers to give their survivor insights to the audience. The short question and answer period was followed by a raffle drawing. The prize was an iPod Nano and two sweatshirts, generously donated by Biola University. Another raffle prize of a $100 certificate to McCormick and Schmick’s was donated by Patricia Heaton, director of Keep Your Money Where Your Heart Is, a financial entity to help people manage their financial giving.

Plans are already being made for Think Tank 2014 and I’m looking forward to it!

Sue Rueb

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