Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wow! What a Year We Had in 2012!

by Chuck Jones

Christmas is past and the New Year is upon us.  How quickly a year passes when you’re having fun.  That’s an old cliché, I know, but so appropriate in my estimation.  We had a phenomenal year and it did, indeed, seem to go very fast for me. 

When we began back in 2004, we never dreamed we’d be having 18 weekend camps in one year. This is a picture of one camp near Paducah, Kentucky (bet you thought we made stroke survivors stay in tents, didn't ya?). This year we had camps in Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, and Arizona. Who knows where we'll be next year but with your help you can bet we'll be in these again, plus some more states before the year is out, and helping a few hundred more stroke survivors.  

And, on top of that, we had four MegaBrain exhibits across the country this year. This photo was taken at the Kansas City Black Expo in Kansas City, Missouri. That's the MegaBrain in the background. You can walk right through it, it's so big. The table you see in the foreground we nicknamed ELC or ELSIE for Educational Learning Center. It holds stroke related pamphlets and handouts, and has four laptops, each with 12 questions about strokes.
And, in addition to all that, we've implemented a few internet sites for your enjoyment:

a Stroke Camp internet web site for loads of information about stroke camp, camp dates and events, and to find resource links go to: (,

a Stroke Camp internet blog site for articles about camp current events, and thought provoking, informational, and fun articles like the one you're reading now (,

a Stroke Camp Chimes Choir site for information and videos of our chimes choir (,  

and our latest endeavor

a Stroke Camp internet store offering items imprinted with our logo (

I don't know what all this looks like to you but to me it looks like we learned how to dream and we figured out how to turn those dreams into reality.  More accurately I should say you readers turned our dreams into reality.  I know, you’ve heard that many times from many sources but, really, could we have done what we have done this year without you?  And by you I mean, first and foremost, you caregivers and survivors, then you volunteers, and medical support staff, and last but certainly not least you sponsors and those of you who sent donations and did other things to make our camps succeed.  No, we couldn’t have done a thing without you.  We needed all of you to make it all happen!

So what does the future hold for us now that we’ve learned to make those dreams a reality? For one thing we’ve learned to dream bigger.  The number of weekend camps will be growing in the coming years and our MegaBrain presence will be expanding to more Expos and our copyrighted Strike Out Stroke events at major league baseball games and other places.

Here's one item I gleaned from the newsletter that will give you an inkling of what the future holds:

"Did You Know?  In order to meet our mission to impact more stroke survivors and caregivers, Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp is on a path to be providing 50 camps nationwide within the next five years."

As David Letterman says occasionally on his show, "Hold on to your wigs and keys ladies and gentlemen!" we have an exciting and challenging future ahead for your Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp staff and friends.

Following are the articles from the December Holiday Edition of the camp newsletter. If you've already read the newsletter you can go finish your Christmas shopping now.

This Christmas season, like every Christmas, brings thoughts of wonder to my mind.  The wonder of new babies, the wonder of miracles, the wonder of wise men, shepherds, and angels following God’s call.  When I was a child, I remember my biggest dream was to be a mother.  I loved nurturing my dolls and stuffed animals and in my mind, they loved me back.  I was blessed to become a mother to two fabulous sons. Every phase of parenting these gifts from God, while not always easy, has been a joy.  God has been with me through all of life’s trials and tribulations. Besides the death of my father in a car accident when I was still a child, my biggest challenge in life has been adjusting to “living with stroke”.  I took on this challenge with enthusiasm, optimism, and hope. When I started the first camp, with lots and lots of help from family and friends, it was another dream come true.  To get our stroke friends together for that first fun and relaxing weekend is another highlight in my life. Looking back since that time, I am amazed at how God led me by the hand and to the right people as we added more and more camps. In life we sometimes get in our own way trying to figure out the “how to”. God always knows the “how to”. If you are feeling like giving up on rehab, feeling sorry for yourself, or saying “I can’t do that”, remember God can do anything.  When thinking those negative thoughts, reflect on the wonder of our universe, the day-to-day miracles happening around you, and open yourself to try new things. Be grateful for every day and each hour you are given. No matter what your beliefs are, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and face the New Year with the wonder for what is in store for you. I know I am. 

Many of you don’t know this about me, but my “other” job for more than 50 years has been working on a family produce farm.  As is typical of farming, it can have its ups and downs from year to year.  At the family farm, we are about to wrap up the 2012 season by offering our final item, live Christmas trees.   This means that I have the pleasure of helping a lot of people pick out just the right tree.  It is such a festive time and quite entertaining to watch families make their selection.  Some want a tall thin tree and others want them shorter and a bit chubby.  A tree can be turned away by one family and chosen as the perfect tree by another.  Even the imperfect trees can have its branches trimmed and made into a magnificent wreath.  In farming, as in life, there are good seasons with bountiful crops and some seasons where we take a loss and are discouraged.  So even if this has been a year with a less than perfect crop for you, remember there’s always next year. Holiday wishes to you and your family.

Greetings to all the Stroke Camp campers, volunteers, and friends,

Throughout my life, I have participated in many career day type seminars where they ask what you want to be doing in a year, five years, ten years, etc…  It’s interesting how the answer to this question never seems to turn out how you had planned.  Ten years ago I would have said that I would be working with children with autism as a music therapist.  Four years ago I would have said that I would be working with seniors on a daily basis.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be working for a non-profit based out of Peoria, IL.  I hadn’t even heard of Stroke Camp!  Luckily for me, the stars aligned and my relationship with Stroke Camp developed and progressed just as it was intended to be.

The past 10 months with Stroke Camp have been a whirlwind: from speaking to 25 fifth grade classes about stroke education, organizing and planning 18 camps in nine states, multiple fundraisers, and logo-wear merchandise, I never know what the next day will bring.  Although it has been busy, I wouldn’t trade what I am doing for anything!

I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed working with Marylee, Larry, and all the Stroke Camp volunteers throughout the year.  But more important to me is meeting the hundreds of inspirational stroke survivors and caregivers with whom I have had the privilege to spend time.  You all are the reason we do what we do!

I wish you all a very blessed, happy, healthy, and joyous holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

In the October/November 2012 Stroke Camp newsletter, we described the DVD project that we have been working on over the past year. The production company, ABS Productions, Inc., based in Denver, Colorado,  is completing the final edits of the 17 categories.  After hundreds of hours of editing, the project will be finished in the next couple of weeks.  Individual copies of this educational DVD will be available for purchase from the stroke camp website ( ) beginning in 2013. At that time, pricing and shipping information will also be available.  The DVD may also be requested by calling Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp™ at 309-688-5450 or 866-688-5450

Thoughts and Get Well Wishes for        CHUCK & LIZ HOFVANDER
Many of you have enjoyed the articles written by stroke survivor Chuck Hofvander over the past few years.  He has been interviewing stroke survivors and caregivers for several years and then writes articles telling their stories.  Those have been in almost every issue of our newsletter.  Unfortunately, in late October, Chuck had a cycling accident as he avoided a collision with a turning car.  He was seriously injured and subsequently suffered another stroke.  Since the accident, he has been able to return home and is in outpatient therapy. He and his wife, Liz, need our thoughts and prayers.  Liz feels as if she has traveled “back in time” as if it were his first stroke all over again.  We will try and post updates on Facebook from time to time so you can keep up on his recovery.  If I know Chuck, he will be driving everyone crazy trying to get back to his writing as soon as humanly possible.  Until then, we’ll struggle on ourselves and do the best we can!

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