Brain Injury Services opens in Radford

The Southwest Times, Pulaski Dec. 6, 2000, Page 1 & 5 (Provided by BIS of SWVA)


Andrea Lewis, new director of Brain Injury Services of SWVA, and Fran Rooker, Jason Foundation co-founder, stand with Charlotte Shrewsbury, First Virginia Bank branch manager in front of a photo of Jason Rooker, whose death after a brain injury led to The Jason Foundation and now the BIS project.

RADFORD - The accidental death of a local boy has helped spawn yet a second program to help families living with the consequences of brain injury.

Pulaski County youth Jason Rooker accidentally hanged himself while playing at his Claytor Lake home. He went on to live for 15 months as his parents and many friends and volunteers struggled with his severe brain injuries.

Shortly after his death in 1997, Jason's parents, Fran and Greg Rooker, created The Jason Foundation to help families deal with the tragedy of brain injury.

Now The Jason Foundation is sponsoring the establishment of Brain Injury Services of SWVA, which will provide more intensive programs helping people who have sustained brain injuries. The Jason Foundation was established to provide resources, information and a friendly ear to families dealing with brain injuries. "Our aim was to erase the information lag that creates a breakdown in communications between the time families and professionals get the information they need to cope with the injuries and the aftermath," said Fran Rooker.

For several years, the Jason Foundation has helped educate the families of those who have sustained brain injuries, leading them to resources that are available to help their loved ones recover or compensate for their losses. Its funding has come from contributions by businesses and individuals in the region.

But with all its successes, the foundation did not seem to be enough.

"While families have been exceedingly thankful for our help we have come to realize that their needs were far greater than our abilities," Rooker said. "We went looking for a model to deal with those needs and found it in northern Virginia."

Brain Injury Services of Northern Virginia in Fairfax has been doing that kind of work for 12 years.

"They've been gracious in partnering with us by sharing all of the details of their model so we wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel," Rooker explained.

With a ready framework in hand, Radford native Andrea Lewis was hired to be Director of Program Services. Lewis, who worked for seven years as a Long Term Case Manager with the state Department of Rehabilitative Services, began her new duties November 13.


She explained that BIS of SWVA will provide programs in the New River Valley and Roanoke areas aimed at actively helping people with brain injuries recover and overcome the obstacles in their lives, as well as promoting prevention.

"It's something you don't really think about until you are affected. But once affected, you're affected for life," Lewis said.

Beyond dealing with the brain injury survivors, the new organization intends to promote education regarding the needs of persons with brain injury, and the use of best practices in their treatment through partnerships with area medical facilities, public organizations and institutions.

Both The Jason Foundation and Brain Injury Services of SWVA are housed in recently donated offices on the second floor of the Norwood Street Branch of First Virginia Bank - Southwest in downtown Radford.

"Thanks to the incredible generosity of folks like those at First Virginia Bank we've got the wherewithal to make this dream into a reality," Lewis said.

"According to recent studies, every 15 seconds an American sustains a brain injury," Lewis reported. Statistics show that brain injury occurs more frequently than breast cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury.

"We estimate that in the Roanoke and New River Valley areas there are a minimum of 1,200-1,500 brain injury survivors who suffer from ailments that cause them to lead less than ordinary lives. However, the discomfort that most of these people experience can be lessened and in some cases corrected," Lewis explained.

The Jason Foundation is a public charitable foundation primarily funded by contributions from individuals and businesses across the region. BIS of SWVA is also a not-for-profit charitable foundation. Both qualify for tax-deductible contributions, which may be sent to P.O. Box 430, Radford, VA 24143.

"If we do what we have set out to do, the impact will be incredible for people with brain injuries and their families," Lewis said.


Website design & hosting provided by Ntelos