The inaugural Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp, held August 19–21 at Carol Joy Holling Conference and Retreat Center in Ashland, Nebraska, focused on rejuvenation. Sixteen stroke survivors and their caregivers enjoyed a three-day weekend of fun, education, support, and pampering. The camp provided revitalization from the stressors of everyday life through various activities, including canoeing, fishing, massage, and karaoke.

Dave and Deb Gay of LaVista, Nebraska, formed new friendships and gained perspective from the camp. “It gave us an opportunity to be with folks who really knew what our lives had become since Dave’s stroke,” said Deb. The couple were able to connect with others who were experiencing the ups and downs of stroke recovery. “It was great to speak with people who live with what we live with, each and every day, and to learn there is still hope for improvement,” said Dave.

The retreat also enriched the volunteers. Dr. James Bobenhouse, a Lincoln neurologist who donated his time, said it was inspiring and enlightening to speak with the stroke survivors and caregivers. “My participation in the camp changed my expectations for stroke recovery beyond six months and has led me to set more definite rehabilitation goals in my follow-up visits with stroke patients,” said Dr. Bobenhouse. The caregivers’ testimony also affected the physician. “I have a much deeper understanding of the struggles and sacrifices made by caregivers, as well as their need for support in caring for their loved one.”

Physical therapist Carol Olson, a camp volunteer and leader of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Stroke Support Group, said the retreat opened her eyes to helping survivors and their families cope during their recovery. “I came away with a sense of what makes many stroke survivors and caregivers able to last throughout the ‘long haul’ of their recovery,” said Carol. Camp volunteer McKenzie Randel, a registered nurse at Madonna, echoed those sentiments. “The experience really helped us see some of the issues families struggle with when they discharge home and how we can better prepare them,” said McKenzie.

In addition to Madonna, other sponsors of the stroke camp included Lincoln Stroke Partnership members BryanLGH Medical Center, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, and Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center; HoriSun Hospice; Nebraska Respite Network; and staff at the Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp in Peoria, Illinois.