To Whom It May Concern,
TBI Raiders was founded in January of 2002. The mission of the organization is to help see that students and young adults who have sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury, also known as a TBI, succeed at their dreams in both school and life. This is a volunteer service that students (with and without a traumatic brain injury) and young adults living with a TBI can participate in online or in person. TBI Raiders also has what student leaders, at Rose State College, at one time called an online city. Students who choose to become involved will learn more in the areas of education, employment, medical, and government.
I am the founder and creator of TBI Raiders. I am from Stillwater Oklahoma. At the time I had been researching the disability and seeing what was being done to help those living with a TBI. I was also talking to others online who lived with a TBI. I began talking to Ashley Washsauen. I knew what I wanted to do but wanted some input from another survivor. I felt it was important for me to step up to do something.
I felt it was important because I was not only a 17 year survivor of a left-right TBI, but I had also made a lot of remarkable achievements. I wanted to create opportunities for both students living a TBI and those who didn’t live with the disability. When I began doing all of this with TBI Raiders, someone in the U.S. was sustaining a TBI something like every 23 seconds. Do you know what it is now? Someone sustains a TBI every 13 seconds! But since there are more than twelve kinds of TBI and too many ways to sustain a TBI, I’ve been focused on finding ways to help survivors once they have left rehab and re-enter the community.
TBI Raiders is an organization that has two programs:
TBI’s Corner is to provide a source explaining traumatic brain injury and how it affects a specific group of individuals: teens and adults in school. It will further provide answers and resources to those who want to learn more about the disability and find organizations and businesses that can better assist those affected by TBI. It’s primary focus is to emphasize an individual’s re-entry to school.
Members of TBI Raiders is to be a place which the volunteers with and without a TBI can come relax, build an online resume, and highlight and empower the volunteer service and the community work in which individuals who have a traumatic brain injury engage actively. Its primary focus is to emphasize an individuals’ re-entry to the workforce.
Plus we also have three campaigns:
Survive to Vote started in 2005 with the purpose is to get issues important to the disability community out in not just the time of election but out to those who are presently in office working to represent everyone. It is about ensuring elected officials show equal representation for not only societal norms but also those who have disabilities.
Raid Oklahoma is a campaign to get the issues, concerns, and voices of survivors out not just in an election but also in the year between elections as well. It was stated on a conference call how it is an insult to lump TBI into the general disabilities category. It is an insult due to the fact that once you sustain a TBI you will acquire additional disabilities immediately if not in the long run. There is a huge stigma attached with the disability. This has to do with the fact a TBI is known as an “invisible” disability. Some with TBI have noticeable changes in the way they need to live their life. While with others you are unable to tell anything happened to them.
Writing letters to veterans is a campaign I would love to start. I think a group may already be doing this but I would love to do it with TBI Raiders. My father and two of his brothers are/were veterans. I say are/were because we recently lost my Uncle Mike who served in Vietnam and Desert Storm when he was alive. I have a cousin who is in the air force while his two younger brothers are no longer enlisted (one army, one marine). I learned from my father in college that I had scored in the top 1% on the ASVAB test I took my junior year, a couple of months prior to my accident.
I am fine with the fact I will never be able to serve in the Armed Forces. But I came to realize something. There should be a unified approach to helping TBI survivors. While I am not able to do as much as I once could, I would love to get letters written and/or cards to send to send to the veterans. I just want to do something that will let the vets know they aren’t forgotten.
Now Survived to Vote and Raid Oklahoma were created to work hand in hand with each other. Presently TBI Raiders is working on putting together a national convention for Raid Oklahoma. This would be to build a platform on TBI issues among other things as well. I’ve also been in touch recently with Rene Axtell, the State Assistant Superintendent, about doing something such as webinars to educate special education teachers about the opportunities with TBI Raiders. Then I have contacts at both Rose State College, my alma mater, and Oklahoma State University who know I would like the two schools to lead the way in helping students with TBI.
The Spring of 2014 I sent a rough draft of a resolution to Rep. Virgin. HR1046 was passed making the month of March TBI Raiders month. This year I wrote another rough draft of a resolution to both Rep. Williams and Rep. Denney. They co-authored HR1010 making the third week of March TBI Raiders Week. HR1046 is important in that month of March is also Brain Injury Awareness Month. HR1010 is important because the third week of March is typically Spring Break. Students like to go off and participate in activities without thinking about their consequences. I wrote draft legislation to create a statewide online program out of TBI Raiders and to help create a Trust Fund for TBI. It is based off of California’s AB 398 Assembly Bill, http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/asm/ab_0351-0400/ab_398_bill_20091011_chaptered.html. It entirely based off of the "Community reintegration services" part of the bill. I also used legislation that Michigan, New York, and Virginia had passed for inspiration in writing the bill. I sent what I had written to Rep. Bennett’s office but do not know if he plans on carrying it in the next session.
Would you be interested in getting your students involved with what I am trying to do and help provide a voice for those living with a Traumatic Brain Injury? You can reach me at (405) 698-2403 if you would like to speak with me more on the subject.
Director, TBI Raiders
17 year survivor, Left-Right Traumatic Brain Injury