When local builder Preston Schell heard the story of Ben Knapp, he decided it was time for another extreme home makeover in Delaware.
Knapp, a Dover teenager, suffered a brain injury when his heart stopped beating. Preston and brother Chris decided to rebuild the Knapp family home to make it easier for Ben to get around and for those who assist him.
“Ben’s parents are both in jobs that give more to others than themselves," Chris said. "Giving back to them seemed the right thing to do.”
The Brain Injury Association of Delaware thought so, too, recently honoring Schell Brothers home builders at its annual Embellish Your Melon fundraiser at Harry's Savoy Ballroom in Wilmington.
Beginning in August, Schell Brothers orchestrated major renovations to the family home, adding accessibility, lifts and a nurses' station. Crews of 10 to 12 volunteers worked to make the rebuild as smooth and stressfree for the family as possible. The company has experience in home makeovers, having pulled one off in 2011 for Dale Dunning and her Jusst Sooup ministry, featured on television's "Extreme Home Makeover, Home Edition."
Preston attended Embellish Your Melon to accept an the organization's award for company outreach.
With this project, Preston said, he has been enlightened to the silent injury of brain trauma, which strikes suddenly and indiscriminately.
Preston said his 8-year-old son likes extreme sports, snowboarding in particular. After hearing Ben's story and beginning to rebuild Ben's house, Preston said, he did his own research on brain injuries to discover they are far more prevalent than he previously thought, especially in extreme sports.
"I searched snowboarding and found a documentary about a professional snowboarder who sustained a brain injury," he said. "It was very moving, and in watching that, I realized having a brain injury can be far worse than having a physical injury that people can see."
Brain injury advocates say the invisibility of brain injuries often make it an uphill fight to raise awareness and promote prevention.
Whether it's a concussion or coma, when someone suffers a brain injury, outcomes are unpredictable. Bad or unpleasant memories attached to most brain injuries often keep the problems out of polite conversation, and the uncertainty associated with brain injury often strikes fear in anyone who tries to learn about them.
The association honored other organizations across Delaware that promote quality of life, awareness and education about brain injury in the community.
Among the honorees was Dr. Basilio Bautista, founder the Child Help Foundation, which offer grants in support of programs that enhance the quality of life for children with disabilities.
BIAD President Lisa Furber said brain injury is the No. 1 cause of child death and disablement nationwide.
The Child Help Foundation sponsors activities, programs and concerts for children with disabilities and supports organizations for children with disorders such as cerebral palsy and autism.
At 16 years old, activist Rebekah Mills was the event's youngest honoree, but the fundraiser she founded, the BrainStrong 5K, has become one of the largest fundraising and awareness events the association has going.
The daughter of neurosurgeon and BIAD board member Dr. James Mills, Rebekah is a cross-country runner and soccer player. Although she grew up with a better-than-average awareness and education about brain injuries, Rebekah found that when she played soccer, concussions and incidents of being knocked out were not taken seriously.
Rebekah knew that continued concussions can cause brain injury and all head injuries should be taken seriously, so she decided to combinine her love of cross-country running and the need to spread the word about brain injuries, coming up with BrainStrong 5K.
"I think concussions are something so simple for people to protect themselves from," she said. "I wanted to get the word out. Concussions are a big deal."
In getting the word out, Rebekah also brought the funds in, earning an estimated $8,000 with the most recent race for the BIAD to continue its mission of promoting awareness, education and a better life for survivors.
For more information about the Brain Injury Association of Delaware, visit biaofde.org or call 800-411-0505.
The 2014 BrainStrong 5K Run/Walk is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, at Wild Quail Country Club. For more information, contact Ray Parker at 302-674-3213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.