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Beach party supports brain injury recovery services

Debra McCown Thomas • Sep 2, 2019 at 10:30 AM


For Norma Johnson, it’s hard to imagine the last 25 years of her family’s life without the Crumley House.

When her son, Jeff, suffered a brain aneurysm and car wreck in 1991 that left him with the permanent effects of a traumatic brain injury, it was hard to know where to turn. Crumley House, she says, may be the reason Jeff is still around – and living as full a life as he is able.

“He’s really happy down there. He meets so many people. … It’s a wonderful place. The staff is so good and patient,” she says.

“When he’s gone [attending the day program at the Crumley House], I schedule my doctor’s appointments and I get the groceries and I go to town, and it gives me a break. And he gets home around 3 every day.”

Crumley House provides much-needed help – day services and residential – for people who’ve suffered traumatic brain injuries. The local nonprofit is hosting its biggest fundraiser of the year on Saturday, Sept. 7. 

This island beach party fundraiser event will feature a Polynesian-style dinner and heavy hors d’oeuvres with beer and wine included; a live auction and a wine pull-style prize drawing; and live music by the band Kids Our Age followed by an after-party with DJ Robbie Britton.

The event will be held at the Johnson City Holiday Inn Convention Center. Doors will open at 6 p.m. on Saturday, and dinner will be served at 6:30.

It’s sponsored by Ballad Health, Dermatology Associates, with the help of other local donors, and all of the proceeds will benefit brain injury survivors served by the Crumley House. Tickets are $125 and can be obtained by calling Michelle Ferguson at (423) 257-3766, ext. 7.

Crumley House is the only facility of its type in the region, says Ferguson, speaking for the organization. And while families and disability programs often provide some help to fund its programs, Crumley House has long depended on community support to meet the growing need.

Crumley House was founded in 1992 by June Barrett, a local real estate agent whose teenage daughter Lori Beth Ford suffered a devastating car wreck.

Seeking brain injury rehabilitation services for her daughter, she found they were expensive and far away – and not fully tailored for the type of injury her daughter had suffered. The Crumley House grew out of her efforts to meet this need.

First located in downtown Johnson City, the organization got its name from the Crumley family, who donated a house for it to operate. In 2001, Jim and Sandy Powell of Powell Companies donated property for the current location in Limestone.

Since the current facility was built, a men and women’s cottage has been added for a more home-like residential living situation for people receiving services at The Crumley House.

The services needed by different individuals vary, but they’re all aimed at helping people with traumatic brain injuries to recover and, when possible, return to living independently.

“We have computer technology classes, we have physical exercise classes, we have cognitive classes… to help them if they’ve lost skills, help them learn to read and write, regain daily living skills, again,” Ferguson explains.

The people at Crumley House have suffered brain injuries from a wide variety of causes: car wrecks, military service, accidents like a fall from a tree or a horse, medical crises impacting the brain.

While some individuals are able to re-learn skills and live independent lives, others need ongoing care. Some of them live permanently at the Crumley House; many others stay with their families and come for the day program.

To their loved ones, this can mean the world – both a respite from 24/7 caregiving and the knowledge that their loved one, though not fully independent, is getting the care and intellectual stimulation they need to live a fully and happy life.

Johnson says Crumley House is all about providing a good quality of life to people like her son, who otherwise may struggle due to their brain injuries.

“They did not expect him to live, but he came through. God wanted him to, and all the people he has influenced over his life – God’s still got a purpose for him because he does touch a lot of people’s lives, and we’re thankful for that,” she says of Jeff.

“Anything anybody can do for Crumley House is well worth it.”