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2016 Year-End Letter from Executive Director, Karen Brown

After 20 years of working at Brain Injury Services, I continue to be humbled by the increasing demand for innovative services designed specifically for survivors of brain injury, stroke, and concussion.

Yet I remain optimistic. Day-in and day-out, I see resilient survivors taking important steps forward on their journey of recovery here at Brain Injury Services.

This past year was no different. During 2016, Brain Injury Services experienced a wonderful year of growth and advancement for our programs and organization. Moreover, the survivors who participated in our many programs and groups realized tremendous progress as well.

Here are some highlights:

600 survivors were served throughout all our programs
80 of these survivors were children
91% of clients said their life has changed in a positive direction
82% of client’s individual goals on the Individual Services Plan were accomplished
Case management services in Winchester were established with the support of DARS
Brain Injury Services was accepted into the prestigious Catalogue for Philanthropy as “One of the best small charities in the Greater Washington region”
Brain Injury Services received increased media coverage, including local newspapers and television programs across the region
Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any ideas or suggestions for how Brain Injury Services can better serve our clients.

On behalf of everyone at Brain Injury Services, I hope that you and your family enjoy a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year. You are an essential piece to the work Brain Injury Services strives to provide for our community. We appreciate your continued support.

Sincerely,

Karen Brown
Executive Director
Brain Injury Services

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12 Days of Christmas Caring

You’ve heard it, you know it, you can probably even recite it from memory: “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” This classic holiday song tells the story of a series of gifts given to the singer from his or her “true love.” The carol was originally published in England in 1780, but has only gained in worldwide popularity since then.

What you may not know is the “12 days of Christmas” actually start after Christmas is over. That’s right—the twelve days traditionally run from December 26th to January 6th. While the gifts in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” may be a little strange by today’s standards, you can still celebrate by giving gifts in your community. Check out this unique spin on 12 ways you can show you care this holiday season.

1. Partridge in a Pear Tree
Share one kind action with a complete stranger. Whether it’s holding the door open, giving a bigger tip or just complimenting someone’s outfit, a little effort can make someone’s entire day.

2. Turtle Doves
Give an unexpected homemade gift to a friend. Even though the holidays are coming to an end, give a friend a lovely note or handmade ornament for them to remember the season.

3. French Hens
Spend extra time with your family. The holidays can be a very busy time, but don’t forget the reason for the season. Take some extra time to do something fun with your family.

4. Calling Birds
Make a coworker’s day. Work doesn’t have to be just work. You can brighten someone’s cold winter day by sharing a kind note, extra treat or helping accomplish a difficult project.

5. Gold Rings
Do something special for your significant other. Leave the kids at home for the night and take your partner out on a romantic date, just the two of you, to show some love.

6. Geese A-Laying
Learn about another culture. The holidays are a wonderful time to learn about different customs and traditions. Take this time to learn something new and give value to others’ cultures.

7. Swans A-Swimming
Remember the animals. Animals need love too, and you can show you care to those who have no voice. Volunteer, adopt or spend some extra time cuddling your furry friend.

8. Maids A-Milking
Surprise the kiddos. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give children is the gift of a memory. Make memories with the kids in your life by surprising them with something fun this season.

9. Ladies Dancing
Volunteer in the community. The lull after the holidays can be a difficult season for some nonprofit organizations. Keep up the good work by volunteering to help your neighbors in need.

10. Lords A-Leaping
Donate new or gently-used goods. The holidays may be ending, but winter isn’t, and the need is high. Show you care by donating goods you may have around the house or store.

11. Pipers Piping
Give financially. If you’re able, financial gifts are always helpful to those struggling in our community. Give back this season by helping to lift the burden of others around you.

12. Drummers Drumming
Be present. The greatest way to give presents these next 12 days is to simply be present. Focus your attention on others around you and how to show them you care every day.

The holidays are coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean the giving season has to. Enjoy the 12 days of Christmas this year by showing the people in your life you care. Whether it’s a great act or a simple gesture, a little kindness goes a long way.

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The Health Benefits of Holiday Giving

‘Tis the season… the season of gift giving, that is. These upcoming weeks are filled with friends, family and complete strangers buying, making and sharing gifts with each other. But why is our culture so obsessed with giving and receiving gifts this time of year?

Turns out, giving gifts is not only fun, but it’s good for you too! That’s right, giving benefits more than your soul; it’s good for your body. Still unsure? Check out these health benefits holiday giving can give you.

Giving makes you happier.
Recent studies have suggested that giving not only makes the receiver happy, but it makes the giver happy too. It activates the region in our brains associated with pleasure, connection and trust. When we give gifts to other people, these areas in our brains secrete hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, which biologically elevate our mood and turn that frown upside down.

Giving to others also stimulates the mesolimbic pathway, or the reward center in our brains. This pathway releases endorphins and creates what is known as a “helper’s high.” So this holiday season, get addicted to gifting, feel the rush and boost your mood by giving to others.

Giving reduces your stress.
Because giving releases endorphins in our brains and makes us happier, it also helps to reduce the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone often leads to stress-related disorders, such as high blood pressure and anxiety. But when you give gifts, your stress literally melts away.

This winter, try relaxing a bit by giving a worthwhile gift to those you love the most. Sounds like quite the upside to a season that can involve a lot of stressful moments!

Giving strengthens your heart.
Not only does giving make you happier and reduce stress levels, but it can also improve your heart health through decreasing the risk for heart disease and heart attacks. Studies have suggested that giving back through donations and volunteering has even been linked to lower levels of cholesterol and inflammation of the heart.

Gift-giving also helps to lower high blood pressure, which can cause heart strain. So this giving season, why not take care of yourself by giving to others?

Giving helps you live longer.
Giving helps to promote social connections between givers and receivers. It also incorporates a greater sense of trust and intimacy with those around you. These connections, coupled with the physical health benefits of your brain and heart, helps you to literally live longer than those who choose not to give back.

Some studies have even found that elderly people who give help to friends, relatives, neighbors and strangers are more likely to live past the age of 60 than their counterparts who do not. Whether you’re older in years or not, one thing is certain: if you want to live longer later, give more now.

This holiday season, give yourself a treat by giving to others. Not only will you improve your heart and brain health, but the relationships you build will truly bring you joy for a long lifetime.

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4 Ways to Spread Cheer This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is over, which means it’s officially time to start celebrating winter holidays. That’s right: the streets are aglow with lights, there’s a brisk cold feeling in the air, and a warm, familiar feeling in our hearts. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and we can’t wait to celebrate.

No matter what holidays you choose to celebrate this time of year, one thing is undeniable: it’s the best time of the year to spread some cheer. This season, be a part of the merriment by giving back through these four fun festive ways to spread holiday cheer.

1. Donate winter goods.
Winter may be a time of joy for most, but for many it’s a time of severe struggles. The coldest season has come, and some friends in our community may not have the necessary winter clothes, supplies or homes to stay safe. Many families feel a sense of regret because they cannot provide a meal or gifts for their children—or moreover, choose to give gifts rather than pay immediate bills.

However, you can help alleviate struggles within your own community by donating winter goods to a local shelter or nonprofit. Many shelters accept new or gently used winter items like coats, gloves, hats and boots for all ages. Food banks will also take donations to put together a holiday meal for a family in need.

This brings joy to their clients during difficult times, and helps free up money to pay necessary bills. You can spread cheer this holiday season by giving back to those who need it most.

2. Go caroling.
“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” —Buddy the Elf. This season, spread some holiday cheer by caroling for the neighbors and friends in your community. Get a group together and compile a songs list to share with others.

If you really want to get creative, check with local nonprofit organizations to see if any of their clients would like to hear a caroling group. Hospitals, retirement homes and recovery facilities are all great examples of places that love listening to holiday cheer. For an added bonus, consider bringing a donation basket to your caroling locations, then give the donations to a nonprofit organization of your choice.

3. Encourage goodwill.
The easiest (and possibly most difficult) way to spread holiday cheer this season is through our everyday interactions with other people. Encourage goodwill in your community by showing you care for others through your actions towards them. Bake cookies for your neighbor, say hello to a stranger who looks down or even send a kind message to a long-lost friend on social media.

No matter what, your gift of goodwill can never be too small. When we all come together and encourage goodwill among ourselves, we embrace the season of giving, and care for those closest to us in our community. We spread holiday cheer.

4. Give back.
Finally, give holiday cheer this season by giving back to local nonprofit organizations who desperately need it. Nothing means more than helping those in need, and you can do just that. Whether it’s through a monetary donation or volunteering your time, your gift this holiday season shows you love and support those in your community.

And after the holidays are over, don’t forget to carry on the holiday cheer by continuing to share your gifts with those around you. The holidays are an important time to give back, but the rest of the year means just as much when it comes to supporting our friends in need.

This season, spread some holiday cheer by focusing on these four easy ways to share happiness with those around you. When all of us come together in the spirit of the season, we truly make the world a more joyful place.

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Survivors Featured in the Connection Newspaper for Their Recent Contributions to “Surviving Brain Injury” Book

Local survivors of brain injury were recently featured in the Connections Newspaper for their contributions to the recently released book “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength and Inspiration” by Amy Zellmer. These four authors have all intersected with Brain Injury Services in one way or another. Take a look at the article in the Connections Newspaper here!

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Pediatric Program Hosts a Holiday-Themed Parent’s Night Out

On Saturday, December 10th, the Brain Injury Services Pediatric Case Management Program hosted a holiday-themed Parent’s Night Out at the Mott Community Center in Fairfax. This event provided the parents of the program a much needed night out while their children enjoyed a holiday party hosted by the Brain Injury Services’ staff. The children made holiday crafts, played games, and fueled up on pizza and cookies. Santa Claus surprised all with a visit and presented gifts to each child.

“Going to Parent’s Night Out is really fun…” said Maya S. “And my parents get to go out on a date with just the two of them. I think it’s kind of gross but I guess they have fun too. But not as much fun as I have!”

Even though the parents did not stick around for the holiday party, they all received a special present of their own. Parents received a special gift bag with various holiday items including and a jewelry piece for the moms, donated by Kendra Scott.

After the event, Jo Thompson, the Director of the Pediatric Program said, “This is always an event that the staff in our program looks forward to every year. It is very heartwarming to see our clients and their siblings making friends and having fun. We also enjoy being able to provide the parents with a break as well, especially during the busy holiday season.”