By: Tom Constand, President And Ceo The Brain Injury Association Of Michigan
The Many Serving The Many It Really Does Take A Village!
The phrase “it takes a village” is by now a cliché, although one that nonetheless accurately applies to brain injury care and rehabilitation. Just consider the range of skills and disciplines involved – from first responders and emergency staff, to diagnostic and surgical teams, in-patient care, then outpatient and rehab teams with multiple therapists and psychologists, plus case managers, social workers, transportation providers, caregivers, and certainly not least, family members.
There is no question: helping survivors truly takes the efforts of an entire village of committed practitioners, professionals, family members, and caregivers.
So it might come as something of a surprise to learn that running a social impact non-profit enterprise like the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI) also takes a village. In our case, it is a village of sponsors, partners, and volunteers – without whom we simply couldn’t do what we do.
BIAMI’s two-day Annual Conference is the largest such gathering in the United States, attracting 1600 attendees and more than 150 exhibitors every September. It is an industry benchmark in terms of speaker quality, educational content, and relevant displays and exhibits. Bringing an event of this magnitude to staff commitment but hard-working volunteer committees of our professional and survivor members who choose breakout session topics and select presenters. They also secure the participation of such keynote speakers as TV personality Montel Williams; former Olympic snowboarder Kevin Pearce; and forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu.
The staff ensures that continuing-education credits are properly authenticated and recorded for our professional members. But making all these things happen also requires the financial support of major sponsors. The BIAMI has been fortunate to have more than 140 organizations sign on every year as sponsors – rehab facilities, home care providers, law offices, transportation providers, and others.
The BIAMI’s primary fundraising event, the annual Legacy Society Tribute Award dinner gala, is of a similar magnitude to our Annual Conference, with more than 1200 guests; and requires an even greater level of support. We rely on the generosity of sponsors to help offset cost of the venue – two pre-dinner receptions, the dinner itself, flowers and centerpieces, photography, the publication of a program, music, audiovisual support, an afterglow event, and much else. Volunteers do the heavy lifting in many of those categories, from arranging the donation of auction items and soliciting ads for the program journal to setting out name cards, assisting at registration and coat check, and the myriad other tasks that would be impossible to execute with core staff alone.
Both examples of these manifold activities have fundraising implications for the BIAMI, but they have at least equally important functions in terms of our mission. For example, the Annual Conference is our premier educational program; and the Legacy Society Tribute gala serves a critical role in program support as well as our advocacy efforts. It recognizes and honors key legislators who support our Auto No-Fault (ANF) and other legislative priorities, underscoring the importance of these issues to professional members who are not as close to them as their leadership teams might be.
Beyond education and advocacy, other pillars of our mission are awareness, prevention, research, and support; and in these realms we typically count on our partners to join with sponsors and volunteers to assist us. With March as Brain Injury Awareness Month nationally, it is an especially important time for the BIAMI to communicate with the Michigan public.
Therefore we often partner with major media organizations for their assistance in getting our messages into print, on the air, and in digital media. This past March, we worked closely with FOX 47 TV in Lansing to develop public-service ads, arranging interviews on news and community service shows, and being featured on websites. We were also interviewed on community service shows of WXYZ-TV in Detroit, highlighted brain injury content on their website. Special movie screenings of the film The Crash Reel, and subsequent concussion panel discussions were sponsored by Rainbow Rehabilitation across the state, and promoted through online and print media partners in Traverse City, Farmington, and Ann Arbor. This past July we also partnered with WJR radio in Detroit, which brought The Frank Beckmann Show live to our Eastern Grand Invitational golf event at Mystic Creek.
Scores of volunteers commit and re-commit annually to helping make that golf event successful, as they do for our Western Grand Invitational held in Grand Rapids; our Annual Meeting in Frankenmuth; the support-focused Quality of Life Conference in November; our Legal Conference in June; and Rockin’ for Rehab in December.
Much of the BIAMI’s campaigns about prevention focuses on getting information into the hands of parents and kids, especially those involved in concussion-risk sports and activities. It is especially rewarding when we see our efforts making a difference in real time and on-site. That is why it is a privilege to partner with Sinas Dramis Law in their hugely successful Lids for Kids program.
Lids for Kids provides and custom-fits free certified bicycle helmets to youngsters. Along with Sinas Dramis staff volunteers and volunteers from other BIAMI member organizations, the BIAMI participates every spring in all three current locations – Traverse City, Lansing, and Grand Rapids – providing bikes for the raffle, staffing a booth, and helping promote the event. To date, more than 10,000 bike helmets have been given away, which is numerically impressive, and significant in reducing injury and death.
That is social impact at its best, but the term “social impact” implies not simply having an impact on society but engaging others to maximize that impact. In other words – and this is emblematic for everything the BIAMI believes and does – it takes a village to help a village.
“ IN OUR CASE, IT IS A VILLAGE OF SPONSORS, PARTNERS, AND VOLUNTEERS – WITHOUT WHOM WE SIMPLY COULDN’T DO WHAT WE DO. ”