Walk for Thought gathers again for brain injury survivors

When the sun rises Saturday morning at Long Lake Regional Park, brain injury survivors from across the Twin Cities will gather for a bit of a reunion. Because of the pandemic, it’s a reunion three years in the making for the Walk For Thought, and It’s a long time coming for Bonnie Markham.

"I’ve been in every Walk," said Markham.

Every brain injury survivor who attends the Walk For Thought steps off from the starting line with another stride in their journey. For Markham it’s a journey that began 26 years ago with a trip to see her mother near Brainerd. It was interrupted by what she calls a hot date with a deer.

"I was five minutes from the cabin and the deer came through the windshield," recalled Markham. "I never saw it."

The collision sent her car through a power substation before finally crashing into a tree. The impact severely damaged the front lobe of her brain and affected her speech and memory.

"I don't remember yesterday," said Markham. "You learn to live in the moment."

With her new reality, Markham did something remarkable. 

The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance was in its infancy at the time and she helped start support groups for brain injury survivors such as herself.  Markham led a group in Stillwater where she lived.

"It's so critical if you have a brain injury to have support from someone who can relate," she explained. "Unless you have one, you really can't know what it's like because you look normal."

In many respects the Walk for Thought is its own support group, a yearly gathering of survivors to reconnect and share journeys of recovery. It’s also a major fund raiser for the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance to help provide services to survivors and their families.

"About 100,000 Minnesotans live with a disability as a result of a brain injury," said David King, the CEO of the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance. "Being able to come together is a big deal."

It’s especially important because the feeling of isolation is common among TBI survivors. They have an injury that is not visible to their families and friends, yet they struggle with motor skills, speech, and cognitive ability.

"And yet there is this event where you are surrounded by other survivors and family members and caregivers who all get the journey that you're going through. And there's just a celebration and an affirmation that comes with that," explained King.

The Walk For Thought kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday morning at Long Lake Regional Park in New Brighton and at the Miller Hill Mall in Duluth. People can register here.

For Bonnie Markham, the walk is an opportunity to connect. "I would encourage everybody to come to the Walk For Thought because it's a real journey in and of itself that once you go, once you'll come every year," she said.