Walk and Roll for Stroke and Aphasia to be held at UMass April 2

By Shelby Ashline

Photo courtesy of Dr. Jacquie Kurland
(Photo courtesy of Dr. Jacquie Kurland)

When Dr. Jacquie Kurland began teaching graduate students in the communication disorders department at the University of Massachusetts, she decided to experiment with some non-traditional assignments.

As a final project for her two-semester course “Language Disorders in Adults” Kurland requires students to participate in a community service project, which she said has “turned out to be the thing that the students learn the most from.”

In the history of the project, students have implemented monthly support groups and pal programs for people in the community who have suffered a stroke or who live with aphasia, a language disorder that affects a person’s ability to express and understand written and spoken language usually as a result of a stroke.

In 2009, a student proposed the Walk and Roll for Stroke and Aphasia. Because of the popularity and success of the event, it will be held for the fifth time on Saturday, April 2 at noon starting in the Cape Cod Lounge of the Student Union.

According to Kurland, the purpose of the Walk and Roll is to raise awareness and money for local stroke and aphasia outreach efforts.

“There’s always plenty of ways to spend the money, but the goal is more about raising awareness,” she said in a phone interview.

Unless someone in their family has been affected, “we find, much to the frustration of our stroke survivors, that many people don’t understand stroke and aphasia,” Kurland said.

According to Kurland, aphasia is a very prevalent disease that impairs the ability to read, write and talk, affecting more than a million people in the United States alone. About 20 percent of the 800,000 people who suffer a stroke each year will develop chronic aphasia.

Despite the disorder’s prevalence, Kurland said people often show prejudice against those affected by aphasia for having difficulty communicating because they don’t have a good understanding of the disorder.

Kurland said in previous years, money raised from the Walk and Roll has been used to promote other stroke/aphasia events, to support ongoing research in treating aphasia and to support programs to help local area stroke survivors, such as the monthly Stroke Support Group and the Aphasia Connections Pal Program.

Registration for the Walk and Roll is $10, and a stroke awareness bracelet can be purchased for an additional $5.

The communication disorders department is also hosting a benefit fundraiser at Bertucci’s in Amherst. The restaurant has blocked off four days in which all patrons who show a Walk and Roll event flyer or state they are supporting the event will automatically donate 15 percent of their bill to the cause. While the first two designated days March 9 and 10 have passed, two more fundraising dates are coming up on Thursday, March 24 and Monday, March 28.

In the past, Kurland estimates the Walk and Roll has attracted as many as 150 participants – a group made up of students, members of various stroke/aphasia support groups and their family members. Those who are interested in participating can register online or in person starting at 11 a.m. the morning of the event.

A reception in the Cape Cod Lounge will follow this year’s Walk and Roll, featuring refreshments, live music by a UMass acapella group and the display of a series of posters compiled by stroke survivors, who will also be present.

Kurland encourages everyone, regardless of their knowledge of stroke and aphasia, to participate in the Walk and Roll and support the event’s main goal of raising awareness.

“We want people to show up who don’t know much about stroke and aphasia,” she said. “That’s how we’ll be most successful.”

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Shelby_Ashline.