Friday, June 2 will be a special day for local stroke survivors and their caregivers with a March of Dimes Canada Walk n Roll fundraiser event at Station Mall.
It will mark the first time the Walk, held annually in other communities for the past few years, will be held locally, thanks in large part to the organizing efforts of the Sault’s Shannon Richards.
Richards was only 29-years-old when she suffered a stroke July 11, 2007.
“It came out of the blue. It came on very suddenly,” Richards recalled.
“I was home at the time, I felt dizzy, confused, I fell and couldn’t think straight and had droopiness all down my left side. I was scared.”
“There were no warning signs that you usually associate with a stroke. I had no high blood pressure or diabetes,” said Richards, who was an active jogger and runner.
Doctors discovered the stroke came about as a result of a blood disorder known as antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS), which causes blood clots.
She was given a clot busting drug known as TPA, which she credits for saving her life. She continues to take blood thinners to treat the blood disorder.
Richards spent a month in Sault Area Hospital and began a long and continuing recovery.
“I had mobility issues. Fortunately I didn’t have any cognitive damage, my speech wasn’t affected, so I’m thankful for that,” Richards said.
She said she went through periods of depression and anger after the stroke and added she still, like each of us, has her down days.
But for the most part, Richards instantly conveys a genuinely sunny, cheerful demeanour.
“I come from a long line of strong women, maybe that’s where I get it from.”
Despite ongoing mobility issues with her left arm, Richards can walk quickly, without a cane or walker, and enjoys what she calls a “pared down” exercise program.
Richards, in addition to being a naturally optimistic role model, also possesses a university degree in social work, which only adds to her desire and ability to cheer and motivate others.
The Post-Stroke Transitional Care Program, which includes a stroke navigator and support services delivered by the Northern Ontario Independent Living Association (NILA) and its partner, the March of Dimes, now exists to help local stroke survivors, having expanded from Sudbury to other northern communities.
But, when Richards suffered her stroke, there was little or no support.
“Once I was discharged from hospital and once my therapy was done I thought there’s nothing here, what do I do, where do I go?’”
“Being a social worker, I thought there has to be a support group for stroke survivors in the community, and nobody seemed to have an answer, nobody seemed to know, so I thought ‘I’m going to start one.’”
“I saw a need and I wanted to fill it,” Richards said.
In 2010, she discovered Stroke Recovery Canada and from there, Richards established the Sault Ste. Marie Stroke Recovery Network (the local chapter of Stroke Recovery Canada).
The local group has approximately 20 members, both stroke survivors and caregivers, with room for more, Richards said.
The group meets for social and educational activities from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month in the activity room at Extendicare Van Daele at 39 Van Daele Street (meetings are not held in July or August).
The Walk n Roll event will be held at Station Mall, beginning at the mall’s centre court, lasting from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday June 2.
Registration takes place at centre court at 9:30 a.m.
People of all ages and ability levels are welcome to take part, from people in wheelchairs to able bodied walkers.
Sandra Hollingsworth, Ward 2 city councillor, will be present to cut the ribbon at the start of the walk, which will proceed from the Sears entrance to Walmart’s entrance.
Participants will be clearly visible, wearing T-shirts specially made for the occasion.
Pledges and donations are being taken now and on the day of the event.
The Walk is being held by both the Sault Ste. Marie Stroke Recovery Network and the March of Dimes Post-Stroke Transitional Care Program.
Richards said 70 per cent of the funds raised Friday will go to the Sault Ste. Marie Stroke Recovery Network, 30 per cent to March of Dimes stroke recovery programs.
A donation box will be available at a table at the mall’s centre court throughout the day.
“What we need to do (for the Sault Ste. Marie Stroke Recovery Network) is get more activities, such as art therapy and it costs money to do that, such as renting a space and paying the person teaching the painting, and transportation costs for some of our members to get to the meetings,” Richards said.
She also wants to add Tai Chi and yoga classes for members to participate in if they wish to.
“We want to bring awareness that there is a local support group, that there is help out there, because a stroke is a lonely journey, it is a very lonely journey, and it’s always made better if you have company,” Richards said.
“It feels wonderful to help.”
“I think there’s a purpose for everything in life, so if it’s meant for me to help other people in this way, I’ll do it.”
Those who wish to make a donation to the cause can do so at Station Mall Friday or go online
For more information about the Sault Ste. Marie Stroke Recovery Network, call 1-800-263-3463 ext. 7735 or email email@example.com
More information can be had by contacting Talia Papi-Grant of the March of Dimes Post Stroke Traditional Program at 705-945-1044 ext. 251 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org