FAIRPORT — Dawn and Kurt Schessl had no road map to help them navigate the medical, legal and educational systems after their 8-year-old son suffered a traumatic brain injury from an accident in 2006.
That’s why in 2008 they set up a nonprofit foundation to help other families coping with a recent pediatric brain injury.
"Without our faith, and without the support of the church and family, I don’t think we could have gotten through it," said Dawn Schessl, a St. John of Rochester parishioner. "From the beginning, all I did was pray and pray."
Dawn Schessl said the foundation offers help in navigating medical and educational systems, provides support in transitioning from hospital to home and from home to school, educates about and raises awareness of available resources, offers guidance in finding the right agencies and resources that can help in a child’s rehabilitation, and helps families find the services they need.
"You need to be a strong advocate and you need to have oversight with what’s happening over your child in school," Dawn Schessl said.
To raise funds to help further the foundation’s work, a Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury gala has been slated from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, at Casa Larga Vineyards. The event will feature Channel 13 meteorologist Glenn Johnson as the master of ceremonies, dancing with the band Reporter, and silent and live auctions.
The foundation is aiming to provide families and schools with manuals of information and recovery tips customized for a child’s abilities following the injury. Dawn Schessl said another goal is to speak to groups of educators about brain injury, and to create video resources explaining strategies teachers can use to help students with brain injuries. Customization is key, she noted.
"Depending on where the injury occurs, you can experience different things," Dawn Schessl said.
An injury to the frontal lobe, for example, may harm a person’s executive skills, which include initiation, implementation and organization. Those who have suffered a brain injury may be left with long-standing fatigue, impulsiveness or changes in socialization.
According to state Health Department figures provided by the foundation, about 5,500 emergency-room visits and hospitalizations for pediatric traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, occur each year in the Greater Rochester area.
Dawn Schessl said once she and her husband learned how common brain injuries were, they decided to start sharing some of the lessons they learned with other families and educators.
"Some of the things we used, our elementary school has been using with other students in the classroom," she said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tickets for the Nov. 21 gala are $75 each, and guests will have an opportunity to buy fundraising bricks for $10 each. For details, call 585-678-4661 or visit www.TBIFinc.com.