Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky Run, Walk & Roll Event Will Raise Funds and Awareness for Brain Injury Survivor Outreach

Writer / Kevin Gibson
Photography Provided

Brain Injury Alliance of KentuckyWhen Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky (BIAK) holds its inaugural Run, Walk & Roll event at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park in May, it will involve fundraising through a 5K even that is open to the public. And while a 5K fundraiser might not seem like a new concept, this one carries some added weight in that it will help survivors of brain injuries and their families to find their way forward, and oftentimes find peace as well.

BIAK, a nonprofit organization, offers outreach, information and prevention methods related to brain injuries, an often overlooked issue that can drastically alter lives and leave families devastated and feeling alone.

“Brain injuries occur suddenly, without warning, and in a lot of cases it devastates families,” says Bobby Paisley, BIAK executive director. “They don’t know what to do or where to turn when they leave the hospital, and that’s where we come in.”

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, a traumatic bra in injury is defined as an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force. Traumatic impact injuries can be defined as closed (non-penetrating) or open (penetrating). Often referred to as an acquired brain injury, a non-traumatic brain injury causes damage to the brain by internal factors such as a lack of oxygen, exposure to toxins or pressure from a tumor.

The goal of the BIAK Run, Walk & Roll event is to raise $50,000 to help fund these efforts. The event is being billed as inaugural, although it is a reimagined and upgraded version of what used to be known as the Brain Walk. The event will include a 5K run as well as a one-mile run/walk/roll. More than 1,000 participants are expected.

The services BIAK offers can start with simple information and assurance, but events like the Run, Walk & Roll, set for May 13, are also about prevention. One of the services BIAK offers, for example, is to provide bicycle helmets for children, to help not only prevent a brain injury, but also to offer education on the importance of head protection. In addition, Paisley says, BIAK can help prepare the families of brain injury survivors for life after the hospital, including, for example, a need for alterations to the home in order to accommodate the patient. BIAK can help those families find the help they need in such situations, and many others.

One example of a family that benefited from BIAK’s help is Maddie Lanham’s inspiring story. Lanham was a senior at Assumption in 2013, a tennis player with college aspirations and an eye on veterinary medicine. While driving her sister to a hairstylist appointment one day, the car Lanham was driving struck a tree, leaving Lanham unconscious in the hospital for multiple weeks with a brain injury.

Brain Injury Alliance of KentuckyBIAK stepped in to help the family learn more about what to do, what to expect and how to cope. While Lanham made a full recovery and returned to school, ultimately graduating from college as a certified occupational therapist, it took time for her and her family’s lives to return to normal. In 2022 Lanham was the winner of the Mary Varga Life of Courage Award.

The award is named for a 1977 graduate of Assumption who sustained a serious brain injury due to an automobile accident in 1995. She has since been an outspoken advocate for brain injury awareness and an ambassador for BIAK, despite limitations related to her injury. Lanham found herself similarly inspired, which led to her winning the award.

She pivoted from a focus on becoming a veterinarian to helping people like herself through occupational therapy.

“All of a sudden I thought, ‘I know what I need to do. I need to be a therapist. I want to help people how people helped me to get to where I am,’” Lanham said in a video statement after winning the award.

Her help is perhaps needed here in Kentucky more than anywhere. Paisley says approximately 35,000 Kentuckians sustain a brain injury each year. Incredibly, that is roughly double the national average. Exactly why is unknown at this point.

“That’s a great question,” Paisley says. “A lot of it is car accidents and motorcycle accidents with no helmet. There are a lot of pedestrians that get hit. But that’s the million-dollar question. Why we’re roughly double the national average, I don’t have good answer for you.”

Perhaps this makes the upcoming event even more important, as many more are affected by brain injuries than most are aware of.

“Some make full recoveries, and some have symptoms they live with for the rest of their lives,” Paisley says. “The goal [of the event] obviously is to reach as many people as we can. Brain injury is a little bit like addiction – if you don’t have it or know anybody with it, you probably don’t know a lot about it. But it affects a ton of people.”

The event is open to the public. Registration is $25 through April 30, and $35 thereafter. Registrants will be able to pick up their registration packets on Friday, May 12 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park. Sign-in starts the next morning at 7 a.m., with the race start Brain Injury Alliance of Kentuckytime at 8:30 a.m. In addition to the walk/run/roll, the event will include food trucks, a DJ and attractions for children. Register online at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Louisville Stories

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Send me your media kit!

hbspt.forms.create({ portalId: "6486003", formId: "5ee2abaf-81d9-48a9-a10d-de06becaa6db" });