LoveYourBrain Fundraiser Promotes Resilience

Cait Ward, LoveYourBrain Ambassador

The Girls Varsity Hockey Team has organized its second annual fundraiser in support of the LoveYourBrain Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “improve the quality of life of people affected by traumatic brain injury through programs that build community and foster resilience.”

LoveYourBrain (LYB) was founded by professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who suffered a near fatal traumatic brain injury in 2009 while training for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. His experience propelled him and his brother, Adam, to establish the LoveYourBrain Foundation, which offers programs and resources focusing on the transformative power of yoga, mindfulness and community for people with TBI and their caregivers.

As of today, the hockey team is more than halfway to its goal of raising $3,000 for LYB through programming, including a dress down day for students and a yoga class led by MaryAnn Haverstock, a certified yoga instructor and Director of IDEAS Lab. The team has partnered with LYB to promote the importance of meditation during #MindfulMarch and hosted a presentation by Cait Ward, a LoveYourBrain Ambassador, who teaches science and coaches Girls JV Hockey at Berkshire School. Ward also piloted a LYB curriculum for freshmen at Berkshire, and assisted in the development of concussion management academic protocols at the school. She suffered a traumatic brain injury 11 years ago while playing lacrosse at St. Lawrence University. Her concussion was not immediately diagnosed and she had to learn how to manage her post-concussion symptoms by taking ownership of her injury. On March 1, she shared her inspiring story with the FGS community, and what she has learned about what it means to be resilient.

“The body and the mind are so interconnected, and so it’s essential that you care for your mind in the same way as you do for your body,” said Ward, who sets herself up for success each day by prioritizing sleep, taking frequent breaks, eating five meals, drinking plenty of water, and creating systems to thwart memory issues. She also practices gratitude, uses music to cue relaxation, and has built an intentional meditation practice.

“I think that all of those are things we all need to be doing to be healthy, I was just forced to do it because of the concussion,” she said.

A pivotal moment in her recovery came when she had the opportunity to meet Kevin and Adam Pearce and participate in a LYB retreat. It was the first time, she said, that she realized that a concussion was a traumatic brain injury and it opened up many new resources for her. “I’m so deeply grateful for everything LoveYourBrain has done. I’m pumped that you guys have this whole week for raising awareness for them because they’re such a critically important group in so many people’s lives,” said Ward, who is establishing a nonprofit organization, Concussed, to similarly support those suffering from post-concussion syndrome.

“Through my experience, I certainly had to put … a lot of these pieces together on my own, and that required a level of resilience, of course. But I’ve been realizing in the last year how this pandemic – and especially working with high school students – how it’s required us all to be flexible, and learn how to be more empathetic, and it’s also forced a lot of us to redefine what our present is and what our future looks like,” she said. “That was certainly something that was very challenging about my recovery, but I’m realizing that this year in particular, and through COVID and the emotional toll that it’s taken, and the physical toll of being on Zoom all the time, that we also don’t have to all do it alone.”

The pandemic has also highlighted for her, in the same way her recovery did, the importance of spending time in nature, away from screens and social media, which studies have shown can influence sleep, depression and anxiety. “As we continue through what has been a very long pandemic, one of the really tangible things that you can do for yourself is to just get outside. It doesn't need to be anything fancy. If I could leave any suggestions for the future, I hope that that is one that you will all consider doing a little bit more of, if it’s safe to do so,” she said.

Immediately following her presentation, Ward led a story writing workshop for students based on the theme of “resilience.” Students who participated will have the opportunity to share their stories during a Story Slam on Thursday at 7 p.m. To view her presentation, please visit the Girls Varsity Ice Hockey team page of our website. 

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