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Montana nonprofit sheds light on traumatic brain injuries

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The Bozeman-Big Sky Challenge Hike takes place Aug. 8. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF MONTANA

First-ever Big Sky hike offers support, advocacy

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY –The Brain Injury Alliance of Montana will host the first-ever Bozeman-Big Sky Challenge Hike on Aug. 7 at Big Sky Resort to raise awareness and fundraise for their efforts to provide support, awareness, advocacy, community engagement and prevention for those affected by a traumatic brain injury.

According to the BIAMT, Montana sits between the second and third in the nation per capita for traumatic brain injury-related deaths. The organization’s executive director, John Bigart III, believes this is because Montanans like to work hard and play hard.

“The prevalence in the state of Montana is very significant,” said Bigart. “It always has been, and through COVID it just increased, because I think people were out playing and not just sitting at their desks.”

Many head injuries, particularly in Montana, are due to motor vehicle accidents, ATV crashes and also accidents related to slick roads and sidewalks, according to Bigart. Symptoms of a possible brain injury include: dizziness, persistent headaches, difficulty focusing and fatigue, all of which can be temporary or long-term. Some injuries can permanently affect someone’s ability to work, recreate and live their daily lives.

Hikers participate in the Missoula Challenge Hike in 2020. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF MONTANA

Despite the prevalence of head injuries however, budget cuts to healthcare services have left support and care for these victims few and far-between. In fact, every other state aside from Montana provides government funding for the services BIAMT provides. Through generous donors and sponsors, for the last 30 years BIAMT has been working as a nonprofit to make up for lacking state services and provide those suffering with the right resources to make recovery possible.

“If I’m in a car accident and I break my leg and I go to the doctor, the doctor can give me a pretty clear idea and treatment plan,” said Bigart. “With a brain injury that’s not possible because no two brain injuries are alike.”

In addition to working with victims post-injury, BIAMT coordinates events that encourage awareness and prevention, including helmet giveaways, concussion education and a statewide online Traumatic Brain Injury support group called the Puzzle Club.

Bigart says the helmet giveaways are his favorite—they often reach out to underserved populations, families that otherwise would not be able to afford protective gear, and teach kids the importance of wearing a helmet and fitting it correctly so they can get back out and play.

The Bozeman-Big Sky Challenge Hike will feature one-mile, three-mile and seven-mile hikes around the resort, as well as a virtual hike for those who cannot attend in person, but would like to show support otherwise. It is $25 for an adult entry, $10 for ages 13-17 and free for those 12 and under. Registration includes a t-shirt, lunch, a free three-month membership to Fuel Fitness and entry into a variety of fun prizes.

BIAMT is seeking sponsors of all levels—they offer sponsorship packages from $500 to $1,500 with a variety of benefits, the best of all is supporting an area nonprofit that supports those in need, as well as a day hiking in beautiful Big Sky Resort, says Bigart.

“Sponsors are protecting heads and saving brains by providing helmets for kids across Montana,” said Bigart. “They’re helping family members of victims of brain injuries and helping us to fulfill our mission of creating a better future for those impacted by brain injuries.”

Those looking to participate can sign up as an individual, a team or make a donation on their website.

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