KALISPELL — “A brain injury is an invisible injury. So, a lot of times people just don't know about it. So, the hikes are a great way to get that out there," said Sarah Ward, Brain Injury Alliance of Montana.
The Big Sky Challenge Hike held its first fundraising hike in Kalispell to support the Brain Injury Alliance of Montana. The Brain Injury Alliance is a statewide nonprofit that is dedicated to prevention, advocacy and support for brain injury survivors.
“We have a really active support group in Kalispell as well, called Coffee with survivors. And so we just thought it'd be super fun to get all of those folks. They're all hiking today, actually. So just sort of getting those folks out getting engaged with that specific brain injury community,” said Ward.
Some of the hike participants were survivors and families of survivors while others were hiking in remembrance of people lost to brain injuries. There were also some people who wanted to come out to support the cause.
“It’s positive, it’s positive because it can often be an internal family matter that's just kept at home. So to have a situation where you can go and walk out and just be amongst various people. And you can just all be together and kind of do something simple in a beautiful setting, whilst creating benefits," said Euan Morrison, brain injury survivor.
Morrison suffered a brain injury in 2017 from lack of oxygen after a cardiac arrest. Him and his family hiked together to help inform his children about the effects a tragedy can have on a family and how to support others.
“So, since then I've just been learning to manage that. And you learn an awful lot of things that you really had no clue about. And you also learn a lot of people have desperately worst situations going on. I think things that can make them feel less human than they used to,” said Morrison.
If you missed this year’s Big Sky Challenge Hike and would like to donate to the program or find resources for a brain injury you can visit the Brain Injury Alliance website. A little-known fact is that Montana bounces between second and third in the nation for brain injury deaths per capita and about 45,000 Montanans are living with brain injuries.
“Montanans, we like to say, you know, we work hard and we play hard. And so it's really, really important to educate people, you know, wear your helmet, wear your seatbelt, outreach like that can really save lives and can prevent tragedy,” said Ward.