February is Chris Rafuse’s month.
Rafuse, executive director of the Cowichan Brain Injury Society, is the only certified recreational therapist in the Cowichan area and February is Therapeutic Recreation Month.
The month acknowledges and appreciates the varied and vital work of recreational therapists while raising awareness about the importance of participating in activities that promote healing and recovery for those living with a disability. Therapeutic recreation can include drama, music, arts and crafts, sports, movement, as well as mindfulness and games.
Rafuse has been a certified recreational therapist since 2009. She embarked on that path shortly after meeting her second husband in 1995 who was later diagnosed with a brain injury that stemmed from a vehicle accident.
“People tend to think recreational therapists are activity assistants but we are not,” said Rafuse.
“I am the sister to an occupational therapist. In World War II, when soldiers were coming back with missing limbs, they were never going to be able to do an occupation around home, or for work, but they needed rehab — because they lost their limbs to save us. The role of recreational therapists were created to do rehab only though leisure with people living with a disability or an illness. We were created for quality of life, health and well-being.”
Rafuse said since starting as a recreational therapist it has all been about making a difference. She focuses a lot on clients who have aphasia, which is a language disorder that is often the result of a stroke and effects how that person effectively communicates with others. She noted that even a simple concussion can take up to seven years before the person returns to what was normal for them before their injury.
“The greatest satisfaction is to get them to do the alphabet,” said Rafuse. “It can take people up to three months to be able to regain that skill. To be able to see them do that, or to witness them finally be able to put a full sentence together is just amazing.”
The Brain Injury Society as an ambitious spring of fundraising planned.
Their first fundraiser of the year will include hamburgers, hops, and heart at a pre-Valentine’s Day soirée at the Duncan White Spot on Feb. 13 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased by calling 250-597-4662.
CBIS will also be hosting two more fundraisers in April with their second annual golf and hockey Tournaments of Hope.
CBIS is hoping to raise $15,000 through all their fundraisers, after expenses, which will go into their She Shed program which was launched just before Christmas. The funds raised last year went towards their Men’s Shed Program.
“I hope those that can attend walk away with a better understanding of what a brain injury is,” said Rafuse.
Both the Men’s Shed, and She Shed programs are models that come out of Australia.
Studies show that older men will often become isolated and depressed so the program was started to offer support. The Society is the fourth on the Island to incorporate the Men’s Shed, and is thrilled to be the first place in Canada to introduce their She Shed program which meets on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 3 p.m., out of their Teaching House at 6011 Cassino Rd.
Rafuse said the idea behind both Shed programs is that things are made and sold and the money raised goes towards paying for rehabilitation.
“People can’t appreciate what is truly involved with having a brain injury until it happens to them, or someone they love,” said Rafuse.
Finally, Brain Twin Wayne Bourgeois, who had to cut short his participation in a cross-Canada journey with Ron Pachet in Saskatchewan last year, will complete his bike ride. He will mount up in Cadillac, Sask. on May 28, and expects to be on the road for about three weeks.