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Bancroft: It's More Than the Property

Success with traumatic brain injury therapy is topic of Bancroft program at Cherry Hill library.

Bancroft is a lot more than almost 19 acres near the end of town that could be parkland or ball fields or the final home of the aging.

The start and heart of Bancroft fills a parcel of land on Kings Highway south of Haddonfield Memorial High School, near the Cherry Hill border. Although a citizens’ skirmish has been continuing for more than a year to control the uses of the property if it’s sold, many residents have little understanding of Bancroft’s mission. That mission extends beyond Haddonfield to nearby towns and programs for children and adults.

To showcase one aspect of the goal of providing services for clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities,  Bancroft will host a two-hour program at the Cherry Hill Library on Monday, from 7 to 9 p.m. The program, including brief presentations by people recovering from traumatic brain injuries, is the first time Bancroft has presented a formal event as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month.

Monday's program  is called "Bancroft Unplugged: One World, Many Stories." More than a half-dozen people coping with traumatic brain injuries and undergoing rehabilitation with Bancroft services will give brief autobiographical talks.

The speeches by people in Bancroft’s brain injury program will be brief, but will show the impact of therapy that has enabled many participants to reach a life of independence, said Cynthia Boyer, senior clinical director of brain injury programs at Bancroft. About 1.5 million Americans each year suffer severe brain injuries that can affect their thinking, motor skills, emotions and sensations, according to national reports, including those from the National Institutes of Health.

Falls are responsible for 28 percent of traumatic brain injuries, motor vehicle accidents for 20 percent and assaults 11 percent, national health reports show.

But the cause of the injury often isn’t a crime or a car crash, said Boyer, referring to a client who was injured when trimming a tree.

Bancroft’s brain injury program, headquartered on Kings Highway East, near Route 70 in Cherry Hill, covers clients living in group homes and apartments and extends to programs in Plainsboro and Brick Township, Boyer said.

“It wasn’t until the 1980s that people were able to survive these injuries,” said Boyer, who has been with Bancroft for 17 years. “Advances in medicine, especially in the trauma system, meant survival. But what was the next step?

“Our goal is to get people back to as much of their previous activity as possible. Some need life-long assistance,” she said, but others have been able to return to school and to life within their families.

“The challenge with the brain-injured,” said Boyer, “if they have no related physical disabilities is they look quite normal but they have cognitive impairments and memory issues that can be disabling and can interfere in their vocational and educational progress.”

“People with brain injuries are all around us but we might not realize it. We might be impatient because someone is slowing the line for coffee” at a shop, Boyer said.

There are actions that can fend off brain injuries, Boyer said. Preventative actions are as basic as wearing a helmet when you’re biking or skiing and using a seat belt in a car.

“These injuries happen in an instant,” she said. But they can impact the rest of a life.

“Our goal for many” of the 150 or so clients in the brain injury trauma program, said Boyer, “is to send them home where they can function independently. Some have gotten vocational therapy so they can work. Some have been able to return to school, have gotten jobs and resumed life with their spouses and children.”

The therapy programs are expensive, she said, “but you pay for it in rehab or you pay for it at the other end, for the homeless, for those in prisons or in state institutions.”

Therapy covers physical rehabilitation, occupational programs, and speech and cognitive therapy, either in residential or day programs.

The goal of programs like those at the Cherry Hill Library, is to increase community acceptance for people with brain injuries, Boyer said. The library is at 1100 Kings Highway North.

The program at the Cherry Hill Library is Monday, March 28, from 7 to 9 p.m. Advance registration is requested with Lynn Tomaio at 856-616-6454 or by email at ltomaio@bnh.org. Light refreshments will be served.

Bancroft, founded in 1883, is a nonprofit service-provider for people with neurological challenges, including developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries.

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